Denver hoops star Chauncey Billups to open restaurant, jazz club in Five Points’ Rossonian Hotel, developer says

The king of Park Hill may soon hold court inside the crown jewel of Five Points.

Palisade Partners, owner of the storied but dormant Rossonian Hotel, unveiled its plans Monday to re-open the historic building as a 41-room boutique hotel complimented by a basement jazz club and ground-floor restaurant and lounge. The eatery/bar/venue will be named Chauncey’s for Denver basketball legend and project partner Chauncey Billups.

“We’re really excited. He’s a hometown hero. One of his passions has been to continue to contribute to the neighborhood,” Palisade president Paul Books said of Billups, whose hardwood exploits include a star-studded career at George Washington High School and the University of Colorado and two stints with the Denver Nuggets.

Billups appeared a project unveiling event at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library in Five Points Monday night. He told a packed room of mostly neighborhood residents he has no interest in being a figurehead and will be “100 percent involved” in the business. He referenced the neighborhood’s changing racial demographics in his comments.

“Like all of you guys, I’ve seen the city change in a major way,” Billups said. “I don’t think its a negative thing. The only negative thing about it is if they buy it all up and don’t partner with us.”

“Everybody who knows me, knows my affinity for this city, especially for Park Hill and Five Points, the places that raised me and taught me and built me into the man I am today,” he said. “This is going to be awesome.”

Billups is among a handful of African Americans who have invested in the project so far, Books said.

Palisade’s plans do call for one major physical change to the outside of the hotel, on the National Register of Historic Places since 1995. The project would to add a fourth floor housing seven rooms with balconies on top of the existing three stories. The extra floor would be set back 15 feet from the floor below it, and should not be visible from street level, Books said.

Billups’ was not the only name dropped Monday. Around the time Palisade bought the Rossonian for $6 million in August, it also spent $1.7 million on two other parcels on the 2600 block of Welton Street. In coordination with the Rossonian retouch, the southern corner of the block is slated for construction of a nine-story mixed-use building that will be anchored by the first non-Washington, D.C.-area location of Busboys and Poets, a combination restaurant, bookstore and event space named in honor of the black poet (and former busboy) Langston Hughes.

Books credited project partner Haroun Cowans and previous Rossonian owner and longtime Five Points developer Carl Bourgeois for starting the dialogue that got Busboys and Poets involved. Once open, the business will host inclusive programming with a “strong African American base,” he said.

The nine-story building will also house two floors of office space, a fitness center (for use by Rossonian guests) and more than 100 apartment units. That will include micro apartments available at lower prices and some two bedroom apartments that could be rented out on a bedroom by bedroom basis, Books said. His goal is to attract people from a variety of backgrounds and income levels. Palisade has built or partnered to build 40 income restricted apartments along Welton Street in recent years. Gentrification has been a hot-button subject in the historically black neighborhood during Denver’s latest growth spurt.

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The development team still must go through Denver’s landmark preservation review and other planning process before it can get to work on the Rossonian and the unnamed project down the street. Books hopes to get started early next year. The plans already have been presented to between 100 and 150 residents that are part of registered neighborhood organizations in the area, said Tracy Winchester, executive director of the Five Points Business District.

The Rossonian Hotel in Five Points, Sept. 6, 2017 in Denver.
RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostThe Rossonian Hotel in Five Points, Sept. 6, 2017 in Denver.

“Their plans to make it into a boutique hotel is a wonderful scenario,” she said. “I think that this is going down the right path in regards to expectations in the community.”

Cowans, a northeast Denver native and pastor who has worked to combat gang violence and provide job opportunities for the formerly incarcerated in the city, is eager to see the Rossonian open again. He remembers stories of its 1940s and 1950s jazz mecca glory days.

“Growing up in Denver in ’80s and ’90s, the Rossonian wasn’t active. I only heard about it and read about it,” he said. “Now being a part of the revealing and revival of that is just very special.”

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