DENVER – The historic Five Point neighborhood is undergoing massive change.
The commercial strips along Welton Street and the adjacent stretches of Washington, 26th Avenue and 27th Street have seen its ups and downs.
Jazz greats Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday performed at the Rossonian Hotel during Five Points heyday.
Franklin and Maedella Stiger, who have owned Franklin Stiger's Barbershop at 2755 Welton Street for 48 years, say Five Points was very different back then.
"There were more restaurants, more barbershops, and beauty shops," Maedella said. "It was more crowded. It was just like the streets of Vegas back in the day. That's how jammed the streets stayed."
Those businesses were geared toward the African-American community.
Downward Spiral & Resurgence
In the mid-70s, Five Points developed a reputation as a "rough neighborhood."
Over time, many of the mom and pop businesses began closing.
Now, Five Points is seeing a resurgence.
Some of those changes are at the heart of what matters to Coloradans -- massive growth and skyrocketing rents.
High-rise apartment buildings are under construction along Welton Street, and new businesses are opening.
Many of the people moving to the neighborhood are white.
Franklin Stiger said he doesn’t mind the changes at all because he has a loyal customer base that can easily get to his barbershop via light rail.
“They catch the train, come in to get a haircut and then go,” he said.
Patricia Yarber and her husband, Matthew, opened “My Wine & Spirits Shoppe at 2741 Welton Street. They wanted to be part of the resurgence.
“You see businesses here now, you see building, people remodeling,” Ms. Yarber said, “Good things are happening.”
Across the street at Rolling Pin Bakeshop, Michael Martinez said he too wanted to be part of the resurgence.
"I could have opened anywhere," Martinez said, “My partner, who is the bakery chef, and I decided we wanted to be right here in Five Points… because my family has been here since the 1920s.”
"I love to see a lot of the buildings, which have been shuttered for such a long time have new life in them."
The Rossonian Hotel is the latest example of a shuttered building in the neighborhood that is about to get a shot at new life.
"I've never seen the Rossonian open, ever," said Jeff Fard, a long-time resident, who operates Brother Jeff's Cultural Center in Five Points. “I’m excited that in my lifetime, we’ll be able to see this open.”
NBA great Chauncey Billups has teamed up with Palisade Partners to reopen the historic building as a boutique hotel, jazz club and restaurant.
Fard said there had been many attempts to reopen the Rossonian, but none have been successful.
He said with the Billups onboard, there is a commitment to the project and to the neighborhood.
"To have a restaurant called Chauncey's in Five Points, that's another reason why we call him Mr. Big Shot," Fard said.
Fard, a historian and community organizer, said not all the changes in Five Points are positive.
He said he’s concerned about “the displacement of long-term residents, foreclosures and all the things that push people out of the community” where they grew up and where their families have long roots.
“There’s a sense of sadness that goes along with a lot of the growth,” he said.
He said many of the high-rise apartment buildings don’t fit the character of the community.
“It’s starting to look like a lot of the other parts of the city where density is king,” he said.
Yarber echoes that concern.
“There are too many (highrises),” she said. “I don’t mind seeing a few, because you need housing, but I think this is getting carried away.”
Fard said he’s optimistic about the future of Five Points because much of the property in the area is black-owned.
“It gives me hope to know that the African-American community is not going to be just washed away,” he said. “We’ll be full participants in whatever Five Points become.”