A peek inside the historic Loretto Heights dorm that will soon be very chic affordable housing

The project is part of the larger campus redevelopment in southwest Denver.

The historic Pancratia Hall is being renovated and will soon become full of affordable housing units on the Loretto Heights campus. Harvey Park South, Feb. 10, 2021.

The historic Pancratia Hall is being renovated and will soon become full of affordable housing units on the Loretto Heights campus. Harvey Park South, Feb. 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

The wooden ceiling rises over a former chapel inside Pancratia Hall. The old Catholic school dormitory was built during the Great Depression at the Loretto Heights campus in southwest Denver.

The ceiling’s slanted slightly, at nearly a 30 degree angle, and rises to a 16-foot peak. Sunlight creeps in through stained glass windows, but only slightly; the windows are covered with plastic due to construction.

Jim Hartman was looking up at the ceiling. Last week Hartman, one of the building’s co-owners, was standing in an area that used to be an altar but will one day be someone’s living room. The unique and historic features like the wood panels, high ceilings and stained glass windows will remain when the space becomes a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment.

“The people who will get to live here will really get to live here,” Hartman said.

Jim Hartman pers into an old chapel inside Loretto Heights' historic Pancratia Hall, which will soon be an affordable housing unit with very tall ceilings. Harvey Park South, Feb. 10, 2021.

Jim Hartman peers into an old chapel inside Loretto Heights' historic Pancratia Hall, which will soon turn into affordable housing units with very tall ceilings. Feb. 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Future residents of Loretto Heights' historic Pancratia Hall, which is being converted into affordable housing units, will have views of green space out of their windows. Harvey Park South, Feb. 10, 2021.

Future residents of Loretto Heights' historic Pancratia Hall, which is being converted into affordable housing units, will have views of green space out of their windows. Feb. 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The spacious and ornate space will be among the 72 units — all affordable — inside the roughly 65,000-square-foot gothic-style building at Loretto Heights. Hartman said construction on the apartments started last October, and developers expect it to be completed around Halloween. He said pre-leasing could start in September, so people could start moving in by November. They’ve already gotten inquiries about rooms.

“You don’t often get the chance to work on a building of this caliber,” Hartman said.

All the units will be for people making 30 to 80 percent of the area median income, said Grant D. Bennett, a partner on the project who, like Hartman, gets to make decisions about its development. Hartman said apartments will range in size from roughly 400-square-foot studios to 1,500-square-foot apartments with four bedrooms. The new apartment complex will be called Pancratia Hall Lofts.

Pancratia’s restoration marks the start of a larger redevelopment project that will turn the 72-acre campus into what city leaders hope will be a southwest Denver destination. The master plan for the the campus will center around Pancratia and the iconic administrative tower on the campus, which sits across from the hall. The larger project will eventually include housing (townhomes and apartments), green space and mixed-used buildings where local businesses, like coffee shops and other amenities, can live.

Wide hallways, exposed brick and concrete, archways and at least one “Alice in Wonderland” staircase — that is, a staircase leading to nowhere — are other features that will stay remain in Pancratia.

Workers transform the historic Pancratia Hall at Loretto Heights into affordable housing units. Harvey Park South, Feb. 10, 2021.

Workers transform the historic Pancratia Hall at Loretto Heights into affordable housing units. Feb. 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Grant D. Bennett and Susan Ely give a tour of Loretto Heights' historic Pancratia Hall, which is being renovated and will soon become full of affordable housing units. Harvey Park South, Feb. 10, 2021.

Grant D. Bennett and Susan Ely give a tour of Loretto Heights' historic Pancratia Hall, which is being renovated and will soon become full of affordable housing units. Feb. 10, 2021.

However, it’s still an old building, so major upgrades are required. It needs new electrical systems, new fire sprinklers and a new elevator to become a safe, modern space.

That’s the technical stuff. The more creative stuff calls for turning previously unused space into living areas, especially for families. The former attic space, for examples, is being converted into apartments with a killer view of the campus and, on a clear day, the Rocky Mountains. On another level, patio spaces will be available for rooms being built in a former gym.

The historic Pancratia Hall is being renovated and will soon become full of affordable housing units on the Loretto Heights campus. Harvey Park South, Feb. 10, 2021.

The historic Pancratia Hall is being renovated and will soon become full of affordable housing units on the Loretto Heights campus. Feb. 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
A cornerstone reading "1929" on the historic Pancratia Hall at Loretto Heights, which is being renovated and will soon become full of affordable housing units. Harvey Park South, Feb. 10, 2021.

A cornerstone reading "1929" on the historic Pancratia Hall at Loretto Heights. Feb. 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Builders are following historic standards set by the National Park Service. The NPS regulates the tax credit program being used to pay for some of the project, so developers have to follow its standards. State tax credits are also being used, and the city of Denver chipped in a $3.3 million loan for restoration.

“We’re honored to help support the historic renovation at Pancratia Hall Lofts, which will help ensure much needed affordability for 72 households in southwest Denver for decades to come,” deputy director of housing opportunity Debra Bustos said in a statement to Denverite.

An old gymnasium inside Loretto Heights' historic Pancratia Hall will soon become a couple of affordable housing units. They're going to leave the backboards. Harvey Park South, Feb. 10, 2021.

An old gymnasium inside Loretto Heights' historic Pancratia Hall will soon become a couple of affordable housing units. Developers plan on leaving the backboards. Feb. 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Historic blackboards will remain in the affordable housing units being built in this classroom inside Loretto Heights' Pancratia Hall. Harvey Park South, Feb. 10, 2021.

Historic blackboards will remain in the affordable housing units being built in this classroom inside Loretto Heights' Pancratia Hall. Feb. 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Hartman said the building is not following the city’s own historic guidelines because it’s not a city landmark, at least not yet. He said builders are planning on applying for the designation later this year.

Some buildings on the campus are older than Pancratia Hall. The school was founded by the Sisters of Loretto in 1891. Hartman said he hears from people who tell him about their days attending the school. He’s even given them tours.

“The thing that’s being created here is so unique,” Hartman said.

Jim Hartman gives a tour of Loretto Heights' historic Pancratia Hall, which is being renovated and will soon become full of affordable housing units. Harvey Park South, Feb. 10, 2021.

Jim Hartman gives a tour of Loretto Heights' historic Pancratia Hall. Feb. 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Historic lockers inside Pancratia Hall at Loretto Heights, which is being renovated and will soon contain affordable housing units. Harvey Park South, Feb. 10, 2021.

Historic lockers inside Pancratia Hall at Loretto Heights. Feb. 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
The historic Pancratia Hall is being renovated and will soon become full of affordable housing units on the Loretto Heights campus. Harvey Park South, Feb. 10, 2021.

Renovations at Pancratia Hall. Feb. 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Jim Hartman (left to right), Grant D. Bennett and Susan Ely tour Loretto Heights' historic Pancratia Hall as its old dorms are transformed into affordable housing units. Harvey Park South, Feb. 10, 2021.

Left to right: Jim Hartman, Grant D. Bennett and Susan Ely tour Loretto Heights' historic Pancratia Hall. Feb. 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Joe Meynes and Stan Bray peer out of a top-floor window during a break from work transforming the historic Pancratia Hall at Loretto Heights into affordable housing units. Harvey Park South, Feb. 10, 2021.

Joe Meynes and Stan Bray peer out of a top-floor window during a break from construction. Feb. 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Workers transform the historic Pancratia Hall at Loretto Heights into affordable housing units. Harvey Park South, Feb. 10, 2021.

Workers transform the historic Pancratia Hall at Loretto Heights into affordable housing units. Feb. 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Cesar Duque works on part of the Loretto Heights redevelopment and renovation project in Harvey Park South. Feb. 10, 2021.

Cesar Duque works on part of the Loretto Heights redevelopment and renovation project in Harvey Park South. Feb. 10, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Weird times

Denverite is powered by you. In these weird times, the local vigilance, the local context, the local flavor — it’s powered through your donations. If you’d miss Denverite if it disappeared tomorrow, donate today.

You’re our superpower

Denverite supporters have made the decision to financially support local journalism that matters to you. Ready to tell your networks why? Sharing our “About” page with your own personal comments could really help us out.

You’re our superpower

Denverite members have made the decision to financially support local journalism that matters to you. Ready to tell your networks why? Sharing our “About” page with your own personal comments could really help us out.