Lutheran Legacy Campus Master Plan


The planning process for the Lutheran Legacy Campus Master Plan concluded with a public hearing on October 25, 2021, after which it was approved and adopted by City Council. The document lays out the community’s vision and will serve as a roadmap for development over the next 15 to 20 years or more. Since the property is held under private ownership, the City does not have full control over what this land will become, and this master plan will help guide prospective buyers to make the community’s vision a reality. Review the master plan, appendices, outreach summary, and project information below and at What's Up Wheat Ridge.

Planning and Development Process Lutheran Master Plan Opens in new window

The master plan document reflects the vision of the community and was created using a market study to ensure that the plan is realistic and has the best possible chance of coming to pass. This document outlines a framework for future development. It is not a site plan, it does not prescribe specific uses, nor is it a zoning document. It describes what the community likes and dislikes, it articulates goals and desires, and it creates guardrails for future development. Ultimately, it communicates to future owners the community’s expectations, without which the property could be developed in a way that runs counter to community wishes. (The image at right (click to enlarge) shows how a master plan relates to the the more general comprehensive plan and more specific development approvals.)

The Lutheran Medical Campus has changed and evolved many times over the last 120 years, and this document recognizes the once-in-a-generation opportunity to consider the next many decades that lie ahead. The Lutheran Legacy Campus Master Plan is considered an amendment to the City’s Comprehensive Plan, Envision Wheat Ridge. It is a guiding document in that it outlines a long-range vision, it will inform future decision on development applications, and it will likely take decades to implement.

The goal of this project was to invite as many people and perspectives as possible into the process. Thank you to the hundreds of who engaged and the thousands who followed the progress. This was an unprecedented public process including in-person and online engagement options resulting in diverse contributions. The project outreach summary shows that thousands of people were aware of the project and hundreds actively engaged in the process!

What’s Next?

With the plan now adopted, the City expects the property to eventually be listed for sale by SCL Health, and potential buyers will be provided with the master plan so they can understand the community’s expectations.

Once a buyer is identified they will work with the City to propose a zone change for the property. It is through the process of the zone change that the project moves from vision to reality. While the master plan is a guiding document, zoning is the set of rules and regulations that describe what specific uses are permitted and what structures will look like (e.g. height, setback, design). The zone change process will be a public process and will be subject to review and approval by the Planning Commission and City Council; consistency with the master plan will be among the criteria for review. Following zoning, subdivision and site plan reviews will occur. As part of these entitlement processes, the City will review drainage plans and traffic studies.

Though the timing of next steps will depend largely on the market and a future buyer, the process of sale, entitlements, and construction often takes many years. The new hospital campus at Clear Creek Crossing is not expected to be completed until 2024, and the current Lutheran campus will continue to operate in the meantime.

While the current property owner—SCL Health—seeks a buyer, the City can in the meantime be exploring several next steps including three specific actions: 1) exploring the creation of an urban renewal area, 2) exploring the possibility of a charter height amendment particularly for the middle portion of the campus where some buildings already exceed 50 feet, and 3) assessing the City’s facility needs to determine what public or civic uses may be suitable components of a redevelopment.

Lutheran History

The Lutheran Legacy Campus is located at 8300 W. 38th Avenue and has been part of the SCL Health network since 2010. In 2018, SCL Health purchased a 26-acre parcel at Clear Creek Crossing west of I-70 at 40th Avenue. Additional information about the new hospital can be found on the SCL Health website.

The hospital move to Clear Creek Crossing presents a rare opportunity for the Wheat Ridge community to think about the future of the Lutheran Legacy Campus in the heart of the City.The current Lutheran legacy campus is centrally located in Wheat Ridge just west of Wadsworth, extending between 32nd Avenue and 38th Avenue. The campus is about 100 acres in size. Lutheran is the City's largest employer.

Medical uses on the property significantly pre-date the City. The site began as the Evangelical Lutheran Sanitarium in 1905, with numerous tents erected for the treatment of tuberculosis patients. In 1961, Lutheran Hospital opened as a non-profit general medical facility. In the 1970s, the site became known as Lutheran Medical Center, and services continued to expand with construction of new buildings, including the six-story tower in 1973. In 1998, Lutheran became part of Exempla Healthcare; and in 2010, Exempla joined the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, which became SCL Health in 2014.

Lutheran Campus Aerial

The site is currently zoned as a Planned Hospital District (PHD), and permitted uses include only hospitals, hospice care, and accessory uses customarily associated with a medical campus. The City’s comprehensive plan, Envision Wheat Ridge, designates the campus as a public land use noting that public uses, including the hospital, will “remain as community and neighborhood anchors.” The plan also designates the site for primary employment. These designations reflect the well-established hospital use, and the comprehensive plan does not consider other potential land uses for the site. It's through a master planning process, however, that possible uses for the future can be updated and expanded.

Master Planning Process

SCL Health was prepared to market the Lutheran Legacy Campus in late 2020, when the City asked them to put their plans on hold. SCL Health understands the importance of a community backed vision for the property and agreed to partner on the master plan. The project was originally presented to City Council in November 2, 2020, and on January 25, 2021, the City awarded a contract to MIG, Inc., the professional planning firm that led the community through the visioning and master planning process. 

The first public event was on May 1, 2021 and from May to October public input was gathered in a wide range of ways.  The project included 4 public meetings including an on-site walking tour, virtual meeting, in-person meeting with activity, and in-person open house.  The process also featured 2 surveys, 4 public study sessions, 2 public hearings, and 10 meetings of the stakeholder and focus groups.  Information was shared via direct mail through the Connections Newsletter, Mayor's Matters, email, What's Up Wheat Ridge, Neighborhood Gazette, print media, and social media.  The project outreach summary shows that thousands of people were aware of the project and many hundreds actively engaged in the process—thank you!   

To stay informed of this and other City projects, we recommend you sign up for the Mayor's Matters e-newsletter, read the Connections Newsletter, and consider registering on What's Up Wheat Ridge.

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