DENVER- People who live in Denver's Five Points neighborhood worry about losing what once was.
African American history defines an area now inundated by seemingly endless construction. Gentrification has been a front-and-center concern.
But development plans for an historic hotel in the area seems promising to those who don't want to see the rich history disappear.
“The Rossonian is literally the crown jewel of Five Points. It's the focal point of the neighborhood,” said Norman Harris, whose family has embraced the community for decades. “It really was a focal point for many jazz musicians who couldn't stay downtown after performing for white crowds.”
The Rossonian Hotel sits smack dab at the center of Five Points. Musical greats stayed there when they weren't allowed to stay elsewhere. Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald stayed and performed there. Now, their performances are distant memories in a building that's sat empty for years as the surrounding area booms.
“While gentrification and voluntary displacement have displaced quite a few people, I don't think it's the end of the story,” Harris said.
A new page was written Monday at the library in Five Points. The community, which has eagerly waited to see what would be next for their beloved hotel, learned the big plan from developer Paul Books.
“We started to meet with the neighborhood and it was clear. We need to bring Jazz back to the Rossonian," said Books, President of Palisade Partners.
He's taking cues from those who have always called this home. As an historic site, the outside will retain much of its old look. The inside, already gutted, will transform into a hotel and jazz club. The club will fill the basement. The main level will be a restaurant lounge.
“We really want that to become the neighborhood living room,” Books said. “The goal in the end is to maintain the core African-American component of this neighborhood.”
Former Denver Nugget Chauncey Billups will open a restaurant and the jazz club. The hometown hero grew up in Park Hill.
Busboys and Poets is a restaurant, bookstore and event venue which describes itself as “a community where racial and cultural connections are consciously uplifted.” It will open a location next to the hotel in a space also owned by Palisade Partners.
Harris has been working with the developer to ensure the community is heard. He says this is the opportunity to continue the legacy of his grandparents who came to Five Points decades ago and built themselves up out of nothing.
“It really gives us the opportunity to kind of rewrite the story happening in Five Points. We are really as a community starting to take control of the story instead of letting the story take care of us.”