The next redevelopment stage of Denver’s Loretto Heights area is coming to fruition.
Denver leaders, including Mayor Michael Hancock, District 2 Councilman Kevin Flynn and the city’s chief housing officer Britta Fisher, celebrated on Tuesday the groundbreaking of the restoration of Pancratia Hall, formerly a convent and women’s college dormitory on the Loretto Heights campus, which will be transformed into 72 affordable housing units in southwest Denver.
The apartments will be restricted to those earning 30% to 80% of the area median income, according to Denver’s Department of Housing Stability. The project, part of a larger plan to put a theater and other housing units on the Loretto Heights campus, comes at a time when the city faces soaring unemployment and a decades-long homelessness crisis predicted to worsen due to the pandemic.
“We need affordable housing. The city has grown by 30% in the last 10 years and continues to grow, even amidst this COVID pandemic,” Hancock said, standing on the front steps of Pancratia Hall on Tuesday morning. “With that population growth has come a tremendous housing crunch in our city.”
Denver’s Department of Housing Stability provided $3.3 million toward the restoration, which will be known as Pancratia Hall Lofts and located at 3001 S. Federal Blvd. The project is developed by Pancratia Hall Partners, a partnership between Hartman Ely Investments, Proximity Green, PNC Real Estate and the Denver Housing Authority.
Joining Hancock and Flynn at the event were Jim Hartman and Susan Ely of Hartman Ely Investments, Grant Bennett of Proximity Green, Sister Mary Nelle Gage, Mark Witkiewicz of Westside Investment Partners and Ryan Beiser of PNC Real Estate.
“This redevelopment will respect the historic character of Pancratia Hall and create truly special affordable apartments for the citizens of Denver,” Hartman said. “We applaud our entire public/private partnership team for their commitment to overcome many obstacles and bring us to this important day.”
“There is no place in southwest Denver that is more meaningful to the people here and community here than the land on which we’re standing,” said an emotional Flynn, who represents the area and has been a champion of the development project.
The Pancratia Hall building opened in 1929 and was the third building on campus. It served as a dorm and classroom for several thousand women before the Loretto Heights College closed its doors in 1988. The building is named after Mother Pancratia Bonfils, who headed the Sisters of Loretto, the founders of the Loretto Heights campus.
The project is the result of over two years of work by the Pancratia team and is financed through a combination of sources, including various tax credits, bonds, and loans from public and private investors. The Loretto Heights development plan was approved by Denver City Council in September 2019, and the Westside Investment Partners purchased the property for $16.5 million the year prior.
“One of the most beautiful things that they’re doing is they’re giving rebirth to this building in a way that honors the legacy and the spirit of Loretto working families,” Flynn said. “This is not going to be million-dollar condos, folks. This is going to be housing for orderlies who work at Swedish (Medical Center), for first- and second-year teachers, for waiters and cooks in the service industry.
“This is what southwest Denver is about,” he said. “It was a tough road to get here, but we’re finally here, and it’s time to do this.”
Before cutting the chains on the doors of Pancratia Hall, Hancock praised Flynn for his leadership in seeing the project through.
The development project, Hancock said, will be the “crowning jewel” of Flynn’s legacy.
“He calls when things get stalled, when they’re moving slowly, when they stop, when they’re moving forward,” he said. “You can hear and know the passion in his heart to make sure that this project gets done and it gets done correctly.”
Most of the 72 units will be apartments for families, including two four-bedroom units and 14 three-bedroom units. What was once a chapel will also be transformed into a three-bedroom apartment, and two-story apartments with basketball hoops and spiral stairs will be constructed in the converted gym.
Pancratia Hall Lofts will also have a shared courtyard, fitness room and business center, along with several sustainability features, including an all-electric building and free electric vehicle chargers.
The project is the latest city-supported affordable housing development under construction in Denver. A total of 1,659 affordable units that have received city financing are currently under construction at 22 sites throughout Denver, according to Denver’s Department of Housing Stability. An additional 1,055 income-restricted units are in the planning stage.
“Commitment to affordable housing is something that we as a city will have to be dedicated to for the foreseeable future, because we have to make this a city that welcomes diversity,” Hancock said, “and nothing says inclusion more than saying there is a place for you no matter where you are on the economic scale in this city.”