Commún buys Machebeuf Hall at Loretto Heights for new community center
ULC looks to redevelop adjacent site to provide affordable housing.
The 72-acre Loretto Heights campus in Harvey Park South occupies one of the highest pieces of ground in Denver. It was home to various schools and universities for more than a century until 2015 when declining enrollment shuttered the campus. Westside Investment Partners bought the campus in 2018, and has sold parts of it to community-minded organizations including ULC and the City and County of Denver.
In 2022, the local nonprofit Commún approached ULC about buying Machebeuf Hall at Loretto Heights. Commún runs programs focused on mental health, job training, youth development, urban agriculture and more. Commún’s fiscal sponsor — the Barton Institute for Community Action, led by a former ULC board member — advocated for ULC’s assistance in securing the 40,000-square-foot Machebeuf Hall as a community center and hub for Commún’s varied programs.
“This space will allow us to expand our programming and services,” said Margaret Brugger, Commún executive director. “We have goals to grow our mental health programming, job training, community organizing and our donation-based grocery store. There is also a commercial kitchen, so we plan to offer a small, food-business incubator and a job-training coffee shop for teenagers.”
As soon as ULC acquired the broader property from Westside, Commún took control of Machebeuf Hall through a multi-year lease, and in October 2023 Commún purchased the building from ULC. The land beneath the building remains in ULC’s community land trust, ensuring the property delivers a community-serving use for 99 years or more.
“Urban Land Conservancy was proud to steward Machebeuf Hall so that Commún can transform the building into a vibrant and vital community resource,” said Sarah Harman, senior vice president of real estate for ULC.
ULC also owns about an acre of property adjacent to the community center. It includes a small structure known as the Arts Building, which is in poor condition after being vacant for many years. ULC plans to partner with an affordable housing developer to redevelop the site into permanently affordable housing, and is exploring the possibility of using mass timber — a strong, low-carbon alternative to concrete and steel. Any new housing would also be placed in ULC’s community land trust, ensuring long-term affordability for all future residents.
Image caption: Southwest Denver community members and Commún staff celebrate at an event inside Machebeuf Hall. Photo courtesy of Commún.