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The future of El Chapultepec: Legendary jazz venue could be demolished and redesigned or designated a landmark

Both parties involved hope to reach a compromise
Historic Denver working to save El Chapultepec building from demolition
Posted at 1:01 PM, Mar 12, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-13 00:50:42-04

DENVER — A debate over the future of a legendary jazz venue in Denver has many remembering memories made inside El Chapultepec.

Historic Denver announced Tuesday that it wants to protect the building from demolition and has filed an application to designate it as a landmark. Those who currently own the space said it is too far gone to save and believe their only choice is to demolish the structure and redesign the corner of Market and 20th Street.

El Chapultepec is one of Denver’s oldest music venues. It was in business for nearly 90 years, playing host to The Police, ZZ Top, Mick Jagger, Dave Mathews, Santana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pat Morita and Ed Sheeran. It closed in 2020.

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The building at 1962 Market Street was first constructed in 1886, serving as a boarding house, bar and restaurant before becoming the iconic jazz club.

Owner Jerry Krantz wanted to create an affordable and accessible place for quality jazz music. Krantz passed away in 2012.

Denver7 spoke with one of Krantz's daughters, Anna Diaz, who said El Chapultepec felt like her childhood home. Diaz said what makes "The Pec" so exciting is the legend behind it.

Monfort Companies Executive Vice President Kenneth Monfort said El Chapultepec would be their third project on the block. Monfort and Matt Runyon, a development partner for Monfort Companies, said the building came with countless issues due to a different tenant.

“Prior to us taking ownership, there was a tenant in the space. That tenant, unfortunately, did non-permitted improvements to the space, which included tearing out many of the walls that most people remember from El Chapultepec," said Runyon. “When we walk upstairs, for instance, you're going to see a lot of holes in the floor, you're going to see dilapidated walls.”

Runyon requested a structural exam of the property. The report found the entire roof framing area and a majority of the second floor's framing would require a complete reconstruction. It also determined that the entire existing floor structure on the main level would need to be completely reconstructed.

“This all tells us a story, I think, corroborated by two engineers and the fire department that this is an unsafe building to occupy at any given point in time," said Runyon. “In order to save this building, it would require a ground-up development. And at this point in time, you know, there's not really much that we can save up here.”

Roughly 50 versions of a design later, Runyon and Monfort believe they have selected a version that utilizes the space in a thoughtful way.

Renderings for the plan show a patio on the street level with a rooftop deck above. The iconic signage outside El Chapultepec is part of the new design.

“We think that our design encourages foot traffic, which we think will enlighten what is right now a very dark corner for our block," said Runyon.

The two are disappointed that Historic Denver applied for a landmark designation of the building.

El Chapultepec rendering
One of the renderings of Monfort Companies design plan for El Chapultepec.

“The business El Chapultepec isn't here any longer, but buildings are the built representation of our city's history," said John Deffenbaugh, CEO and president of Historic Denver. “The stories that it [the building] can tell us so incredibly important to us.”

Deffenbaugh said he ultimately would like to reach an agreement with Monfort Companies.

“What we would love to happen would be to negotiate with the property owner to reach a compromise solution, which would retain the building, retain the stories it tells, and retain its contribution to this context, but also to allow them to create a contemporary leisure and entertainment behind it," said Deffenbaugh. “Our aspiration is to work with the property owner to reach a compromise. That's far more desirable than moving through statutory process.”

Meanwhile, one of the musicians who grew up loving El Chapultepec said it's hard to see the building in such a state.

Andrew Hudson was a house bassist at the venue for roughly 17 years. He first played on stage at only 15 years old.

“I hope that we just never forget it, no matter what happens," said Hudson. “Things aren't what they used to be... It's the last song of the night.”

Legendary jazz venue could be demolished and redesigned or designated a landmark

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