By Melissa Garcia

DENVER, Colo. (CBS4) – More than 200 people attended the first religious Sunday service in three decades at the Loretto Heights College campus chapel. The more than a century old landmark drew residents into the chapel on Federal near Dartmouth for the pre-Christmas celebration.

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Leaders hope the revitalized worship space will help to preserve Loretto Heights’ history.

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Southwest Denver residents packed the pews of the picturesque church, including Tara Durham, a Colorado native.

“This is an iconic place in Southwest Denver. And a lot of people forget that we have a Southwest Denver,” Durham said.

The gathering brought new life into a space that sat without religious Sunday services for thirty years. The service also marked the first event in the chapel since a developer bought the 75-acre property in July.

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“(We are) celebrating the rebirth of this campus. This has been a closed campus forever, since 1890. And when this is redeveloped, it’s going to welcome people from all around the neighborhood,” said Kevin Flynn, a Denver city council member representing district two.

“You can clearly see the Roman Catholic heritage,” said Sister Mary Nelle Gage, a nun who has prayed at the former Catholic, now inter-denominational chapel, for fifty years. “Worship has taken place here for 106 years.”

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(CBS)

Built in 1911 by one of Denver’s most renowned architects, the church stands feet away from Loretto Heights’ iconic Romanesque tower.

The upcoming redevelopment is expected to fill the college campus with apartments, houses and businesses.

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Flynn hopes to preserve Loretto Heights’ theatre as a cultural center for residents across metro Denver to enjoy.

“To try to identify an operator and a capital cost to keep that theatre open, because we have nothing like this in Southwest Denver. And to lose that? It would be irreplaceable,” Flynn told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia.

Earlier this month, the city of Denver announced the release of a survey for residents to give feedback on the redevelopment.

Melissa Garcia has been reporting for CBS4 News since March 2014. Find her bio here, follow her on Twitter @MelissaGarciaTV, or send your story idea to mkgarcia@cbs.com.

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