Alumni / Spring 2017

Alumni shaping Denver: CJ Chapman, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck

“LoDo is one of the hottest markets in the country right now, and I think the Union Station development was the paramount catalyst for that.” Photo: Anthony Camera

A Denver native and East High School graduate who went to Princeton to play basketball, CJ Chapman (JD ’06) returned to his hometown after college to pursue a law degree at DU. He is now a partner and real estate lawyer at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, where he has negotiated deals on a mix of high-profile projects, including the former University of Colorado Hospital site on Colorado Boulevard. Most notably, Chapman played a key role in the recent redevelopment of Denver’s Union Station into a multimodal transportation hub that has drawn accolades locally and nationally for its tasteful update of a historic property.


Q: Was the plan always to go to law school?

A: It was something that I always considered growing up, but I played basketball in high school and college, so l never had a job outside of when I graduated from undergrad. I took two years off, worked in corporate America here in Colorado, and just from that experience, it made me want to go to law school. I’ve known Steve Farber and Norm Brownstein pretty much my entire life, and I solicited their advice as to law school or business school, and then I also solicited their advice as to where I should apply to go to law school, and they said, “CU and DU are both great schools, but DU has a better pulse on the legal market here in Denver.” So I chose to go to DU.


Q: How did you feel that a law degree played into your strengths or the things that you care about or wanted to do in life?

A: When I was contemplating whether or not to go to business school or law school, I came to the conclusion that you can do everything with a law degree that you can do with a business degree, but you can’t do everything with a business degree that you can do with a law degree. I wanted to make sure I had all of the tools necessary. I wanted to make sure I was multifaceted with my education, so that if I decided to go into business I could, or if decided to pursue law I could also do that.


Q: Obviously you ended up in law — real estate law specifically. What has that been like here in Denver?

A: I graduated [from law school] in 2006. That was kind of the tail end of gangbusters on the real estate market, then ’08 and ’09 happened, when we had the so-called Great Recession. So in my 10-plus years of experience, I’ve seen a pretty significant roller coaster in a short period of time. I’ve participated in some of the more exciting developments here in Colorado — I did the SouthGlenn mall development, which is one of the largest retail shopping centers in the state, and then probably the most significant deal I’ve done in Colorado is Union Station. That was the redevelopment of the old train station into what it is today, and that’s a hotel with retail on the ground floor.


Q: How exciting was it to hear that concept in the beginning and help put that together?

A: It was very exciting. I was fortunate to be at a point in my career when I was senior enough to understand the complexities but junior enough to work with a more senior partner at the time. I was an associate when that deal happened. And it was perfect timing. Some people say that luck is opportunity meeting preparedness, and I was given the opportunity and prepared to take on that type of task. At the time, everyone was telling me how significant of a deal it was going to be, but looking back at it now that it’s fully operational, it is even more significant than I thought. It is a very significant project, and it is going to have a very large impact on future developments to come.


Q: What does that project say about Denver and where it’s headed? That seemed to kick off a lot of growth in LoDo.

A: I think that that deal was the catalyst for all of the lower downtown development that you’re seeing now. Twenty or so years ago, Coors Field was the catalyst for LoDo, and then LoDo kind of remained stagnant. LoDo is one of the hottest markets in the country right now, and I think the Union Station development was the paramount catalyst for that.


Q: What do you think the biggest challenges are for Denver right now?

A: I think the biggest challenge is making sure our infrastructure supports the continued growth we have. I think Denver and New York flip-flop as far as the most popular cities for millennials to move to. And while we have a huge influx of people, we need to make sure that our public infrastructure is ready to support this influx of people. I think that is what’s going to bog the city down, if anything, and I think that Mayor Hancock has done a great job on that. [Another challenge is] making sure that Denver remains a place for everyone, not just people who have money. We need to be mindful of the folks who have been here for years and make sure it’s also a place that is welcoming to them as well.






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