Forward, Forward Loretto
“Forward, Forward Loretto. Hold the torch ever firm in your hand. Let the rays of its light lead you onward. Spreading courage and hope through the land. Thy shining fame has enrolled thy name. With the brightest of all our lights, long may you stand, so proud and grand, our own Loretto Heights.”
These verses from the Loretto Heights College alma mater ring true in light of its new owner and redevelopment plans. For 99 years the Sisters of Loretto educated girls and some men in later years at Loretto Heights College (LHC). Shortly after Regis College took possession of the campus, the owners sold it to Teikyo University, which operated it for more than 25 years as Colorado Heights University (CHU). In late 2016 CHU announced it would be selling the campus. Loretto was contacted regarding disposition of the cemetery where 62 Loretto sisters are buried.
As requested by Pearl McGivney, Ruth Routten and I have addressed the issue of best options for the cemetery. Professional counsel was obtained from a cemetery planner, landscape architects, a commercial real estate agent and the Archdiocese of Denver Director of Cemeteries. Providing for the perpetual care at Loretto Heights or exhuming and relocating the graves at Mt. Olivet had been our options. Before a settlement could be reached with CHU, the entire campus was sold to Westside Investment Partners at the end of July 2018.
Shortly after the public announcement of the intended sale, persons interested in the future of Loretto Heights began meeting regularly. The remarkable revelation to us has been the deep and abiding affection for the Heights and her legacy among neighbors, civic stakeholders and historical preservationists. A Southwest Denver City Councilman engaged the Denver City Planning and Development team to work with representatives from the neighborhood, civic organizations and the Sisters of Loretto to advise the new owner. There were several large public gatherings to which hundreds came to hear plans and offer suggestions.
Very important to the Denver community is the historical preservation of as many of the buildings as possible, especially the Academy/Administration Tower Building, including the chapel. Some buildings are on the National Historic Register. Pancratia Hall, built in 1929, will be redeveloped into affordable housing units, with 1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-bedroom units. The Pan Hall developers hope to install a portrait of Mother Pancratia above the fireplace in the office. Westside has committed to almost double the required 10 percent open space, is considering maintaining the pool as a community asset, hopes to redevelop the art studio as a community gathering place and is working with Denver Arts and Venues to become the managing operator of the theater. Education will continue on the campus as Denver Public Schools purchased land, built and is operating a STEM school. A cafeteria is under construction.
Denver City Council has approved the Loretto Heights area plan. Two council members have special ties to the Heights. President Jolon Clark is the son of LHC alum Jana Meyer Clark ’67, and Amanda Sandoval is the daughter of Mary Helen Sandoval. Public community meetings continue on the campus monthly.
On Dec. 22 this year there will be two ecumenical Christmas services in the chapel, which will be open to the public. Ruth and I remain in conversation/consultation with Westside regarding the future disposition of the cemetery. The Archdiocese of Denver stands ready to provide perpetual care at the Heights cemetery as long as an endowment fund is available.