Developer and businessman Carl Bourgeois, widely credited with revitalizing Five Points, dies at 71 | Local News
Carl Bourgeois, a developer and businessman widely credited with restoring Denver’s historic Five Points neighborhood, died Sunday after a long battle with heart disease, according to his family. He was 71 years old.
The fourth of Alfred Bourgeois and Bobbie Stroud’s seven children, Carl was born and raised in a small house in Colorado Springs. He helped raise his younger siblings after his mother died at 47, and in the 1970s moved with his wife and family to Denver, where he worked as a banker.
When he arrived in Denver, Bourgeois was disheartened to see that the historically Black Five Points neighborhood, whose cultural importance was on par with Harlem in New York, had fallen on hard times.
“By the time I got there, it was in this downward spiral,” Bourgeois told The Gazette last year. “But I was still really impressed that there were so many remnants of black businessmen, and I wanted to be one.”
“When he came to Denver, he saw the Five Points neighborhood was in economic decline,” said Wellington Webb, Denver’s first black mayor and a longtime friend. “He looked at it and saw something worth investing in.”
With the skills of a seasoned banker and the passionate heart of a community advocate, Bourgeois began to invest in and help revitalize a once-proud neighborhood that seemed destined for the wrecking ball, Webb said. In 1983, he and two partners purchased their first property in the neighborhood – the Triangle Building on Washington Street. They purchased and renovated a second building three years later, and the Five Points revival had begun, according to Webb.
“He had a sense of history and wanted to provide opportunity by salvaging some of that history that could be torn down,” Webb said.
In 1989, Bourgeois founded Technologie Civile, a firm specializing in construction management and real estate development. The company has lent its management and development expertise to numerous Denver projects, including the Denver International Airport, Stapleton Redevelopment Project, Webb Municipal Office Building, Denver Art Museum and Downtown 14th Street Streetscape. -city of Denver, according to the company’s website.
Where other people might have seen a community in disrepair, Bourgeois saw an opportunity, said April Nelson, Bourgeois’ sister.
“He could look at a property that no one else wanted to take, and he would turn it into something that would benefit the community,” she said.
Bourgeois also had a passion for African history, Webb said. He visited the continent several times, bought a farm in South Africa and befriended the South African musician Hugh Masekela.
“He thought it was important for black Americans to maintain a connection to the homeland,” Webb said.
After more than three decades in Denver, Bourgeois returned to the Colorado Springs neighborhood where he grew up and saw another property he could revitalize. He purchased a condemned house at 944 N. Walnut St. and began restoring the historic building to its former glory.
He decorated it with South African art and artifacts from his family’s history, and breathed life into the crumbling acreage surrounding the house.
Bourgeois began hosting an annual party on July 3 at the Walnut Street home, inviting hundreds of people to eat and listen to live music. Webb and his wife went to that year’s party and sat down with Bourgeois, whose once sturdy frame had been weakened by cardiac amyloidosis, a condition that reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood. Bourgeois watched most of the festivities from a window inside the house, but remained in good spirits, Webb said.
“I was struck by the fact that even in his unhealthy state, even though he was in hospice care, he still felt it was important to carry out this annual event – even though he knew it was the last he would see.”
Bee Harris, a Denver publisher who had known Bourgeois for more than 30 years, said he was a rare entity — a kind-hearted man with the courage to succeed in the business world.
“He was a successful businessman, but he used his success to help people,” Harris said. “You would be hard-pressed to find anyone with anything negative to say about Carl Bourgeois.”
“He loved his family, and he really cared about Denver and Colorado Springs, and the people who lived in those communities,” Nelson said. “He really was a good man.”