The Rossonian Hotel is the crown jewel of Denver’s historic Five Points neighborhood.
Jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Billy Holiday, Nat King Cole, Charlie Parker, Denver’s own Charles Burrell and many more rocked the house in to the wee hours of the morning back in the day.
The world renown artists would perform at hot spots around the Mile-High City but were only allowed to stay overnight in the Black neighborhood, Five Points. Segregation restricted where these incredibly talented people could check in to a hotel room and stay overnight. On stage they were judged by their talents. But as soon as the spotlight turned off they were judged by the color of their skin. Just ordinary negroes - from the 1920s up to the 1970’s.
Back then the neighborhood was alive! An exciting place to live, shop and play. African-American businesses thrived. Barber shops and salons, clothing stores, law firms, doctor’s offices. Five Points was the bomb!
Sadly, Five Points changed as those with wealth moved to other neighborhoods that were more fashionable and contemporary. By the mid to late 1990’s Five Points was the victim of neglect.
The last chapter has not been written though as some potentially exciting news for historic Five Points was announced recently. The new owner and developer of the Rossonian Hotel, Paul Books, President of Palisade Partners, presented his plans to reopen the crown jewel of the neighborhood. During the announcement at the Blair Caldwell African American Research Library, Books was joined by respected African American men in the community, Haroun Cowan, Ryan Ross, NBA great and Denver native Chauncy Billups, and others.
Now, I think I’m one of the most positive people I know. But even I have a cautionary sense of “wait and see.”
After decades of blight and neglect, what will the proposed changes coming to the historic building and neighborhood mean? Will it be able to hang onto the culture and character that make it unique?
Across the street from the Rossonian on Welton St., another Palisade property will be housing Busboys and Poets. The first Busboys and Poets was opened in Washington, D.C., and there are now six locations.
What will be interesting to see is if, in the process of renovating, the developers will give African-American contractors, construction workers, hotel managers and staff a shot at the work. Remember, this was the only neighborhood where Black folks in Denver were allowed to live up to the early part of the 70’s.
Ironically, many African-Americans have been pushed out of the neighborhood because the prices for property have gotten so expensive in the so-called ‘hood! Wouldn’t it be great to create an environment that supported job opportunities for the very people who’ve been pushed out?
Paul Books was unclear when asked how many jobs will be created and whether or not he’s reached out to the Black community.
So here is me SPEAKING TRUTH: if you are a Black contractor, construction worker, hospitality professional, etc. don’t wait to be asked! To participate in the revitalization of the Rossonian and Five Points as a whole, reach out now to:
Developer Paul Books (http://palisadepartners.com/contact/)
Denver City Councilman in District 9, Albus Brooks (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Engage in a community that deserves respect, attention and honor.