Soon-to-be-redeveloped Loretto Heights campus educated generations of Denver women

Catholic nuns with the Sisters of Loretto mission founded the campus in 1891.

Women walk with books at Loretto Heights Colleges in Denver, Colorado. The rusticated stone building with stone tower and arcades was designed by Frank E. Edbrooke sometime between 1948 and 1960.  (Lloyd Rule, Denver Public Library Western History Collection, 	Z-10327)
Women walk with books at Loretto Heights Colleges in Denver, Colorado. The rusticated stone building with stone tower and arcades was designed by Frank E. Edbrooke sometime between 1948 and 1960. (Lloyd Rule, Denver Public Library Western History Collection, Z-10327)
Women walk with books at Loretto Heights Colleges in Denver, Colorado. The rusticated stone building with stone tower and arcades was designed by Frank E. Edbrooke sometime between 1948 and 1960. (Lloyd Rule, Denver Public Library Western History Collection, Z-10327)

A West Coast developer that boasts transforming former airports, military bases and urban industrial sites into thriving retail, residential and commercial communities announced plans Wednesday to redevelop the Colorado Heights University campus in southwest Denver.

Residents in Harvey Park South have been cautiously awaiting what’s next for the site sometimes called Loretto Heights ever since Colorado Heights University announced last fall it was closing. The new buyer, Catellus Development Corp., has pledged to preserve the admin building and chapel on the campus while “bringing a renewed and exciting vision for the property’s future.”

The development company out of Oakland, California declined to say how much it’s planning to pay the Teikyo University group for the land. The Japanese-based group bought the campus in 1989.

“We do not yet have a definitive timeline for the close of the property, but it will be several months to a year,” said Catellus spokeswoman Jessica Reynolds.

“We are excited to begin reaching out to the community. While we do not have a timeline to share, we plan to receive input from the community in several ways. That may mean attending neighborhood meetings, receiving feedback via email or hosting outreach events. As soon as we have a plan to share, we’ll let the community know,” Reynolds told Denverite in an email.

The former Lortetto Heights campus in Harvey Park South, Nov. 2, 2017 (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) loretto heights; harvey park south; denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty;
The former Lortetto Heights campus in Harvey Park South, Nov. 2, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The president of the Harvey Park Improvement Association, Xochitl “Sochi” Gaytan, told Denverite she hopes to see other buildings on the campus, including the theater, preserved during redevelopment.

Councilman Kevin Flynn represents the area and told residents that so far the project is “starting off on a good note.”

“They’ve said, ‘We think this is a great opportunity, we want to talk to the community and see how we can make this the best it can be,'” Flynn said. “They seem very intent on residential — very little retail or commercial at all.”

An instructor leads a group of female students practicing first aide techniques in a classroom, Loretto Heights service camp, a WWI training center, Denver, Colorado. (George L. Beam/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/GB-7542) denver; colorado; loretto heights; WWI; World War I;
An instructor leads a group of female students practicing first aide techniques in a classroom, Loretto Heights service camp, a WWI training center, Denver, Colorado. (George L. Beam/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/ GB-7542)

The former Loretto Heights campus in southwest Denver played a key role in the advancement of women.

Catholic nuns with the Sisters of Loretto mission founded the campus in 1891 when they moved St. Mary’s Academy, a boarding school for young women, from downtown Denver to its spot west of South Federal Boulevard, according to the “Colorado Heights University 100 Years of History.”

“The development of character was of prime importance, each girl enrolled at the academy learned self-control and respect for authority, and was advised to study her own nature to learn its weaknesses and its power. Students were guided toward a conscience that was ‘unswervingly upright, a bearing never undignified,'” the report states.

During World War I, the nuns supported using the campus for a military training camp started by patriotic Colorado women. The camp offered classes in surgical dressings and caring for the wounded, wireless telegraphy, typing and stenography.

Women look on as a Sister of Loretto nun fills out a form at Loretto Heights College in Denver, Sept. 21, 1950. (Lloyd Rule, Denver Public Library Western History Collection, Z-10228)
Women look on as a Sister of Loretto nun fills out a form at Loretto Heights College in Denver, Sept. 21, 1950. (Lloyd Rule, Denver Public Library Western History Collection, Z-10228)

In 1948, Loretto Heights phased out the elementary and secondary programs and became Loretto Heights College, a four-year college for women.

“LHC recognized the changing attitudes of the times and began to consider its curriculum in a different light, keeping in mind that ‘students now seek to fit themselves for jobs and are interested in potential economic independence.’ Investigation of the possibilities of the joint collegiate nursing program began as early as 1945, and the program was finally inaugurated during the 1948-49 school year,” the report states.

Between 1968 and 1980, Loretto Heights added a board of trustees, started admitting male students and formed a business program, according to Regis University.

“In the summer of 1988, LHC closed and three of its academic programs moved to Regis College. The nursing program became the foundation for the Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions,” Regis’ website states.

The former Lortetto Heights campus in Harvey Park South, Nov. 2, 2017 (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) loretto heights; harvey park south; denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty;
The former Lortetto Heights campus. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Since announcing the closure last year, Colorado Heights University has had all of its students complete their programs or transfer to another institutions, according to a news release.

“We are pleased that the administration building and chapel will be preserved, as we pledged to do, and we will continue to work with the Sisters of Loretto on our offer to donate the cemetery,” said
Fred Van Liew, president of Colorado Heights University, in a statement. “As we look to the future, we believe Catellus will be an ideal fit for this project because of the company’s strong history of community engagement on other projects with historically significant sites.”

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Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.

Adrian D. Garcia

Author: Adrian D. Garcia

Adrian D. Garcia is on business and trends for Denverite, serves as treasurer for the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and on the board of the Denver Press Club. He can be reached at agarcia@denverite.com.