Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw | AspenTimes.com

Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Boy, do I feel like a fool!

I guess that’s just what happens when you try to be open-minded and evenhanded … you know, fair and balanced.

Last week, I devoted my column to discussing the eternal balancing act between the opposing forces of government and (for want of a less-biased term) free enterprise.

Free enterprise ruins things because its greed knows no limits, I suggested. But when government steps in to provide those limits, it clumps around, ham-fisted and flat-footed, like a hippo in boxing gloves trying to do brain surgery.

But now, just a short week later, it has become painfully clear that what we need right now is for Aspen’s government to swat down the latest crop of vile developments – swat them down with its big hammy fists and then crush them under its huge, flat feet.

You say you want some balance?

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OK.

What we also need is another set of ham-fists to grab a couple of gutless wonders on Aspen City Council and smack them upside the head and some flat feet to kick them square in the butt. Why? Because the council had a chance to nip these evil blossoms in the bud by passing an emergency ordinance, but two members wanted to be more judicious in their actions – so we are now thrown, judiciously, into this poisonous swamp.

Feel better? Great.

Now, balance restored, let’s discuss the vile excrescence currently threatening the Hyman Avenue mall. On the “Something Evil This Way Comes” scale, this one thunders past even the hellish Hecht-apalooza that’s brewing two blocks to the east. (Let’s be clear. This is not meant as even the faintest of praise for that Hecht on Earth in the 600 block of East Hyman. It is only that the Hecht juggernaut has been forced by circumstance to defecate a couple of blocks from the dead center of town. But wait! Soon coming right at you: another pile of Hecht in the middle of the Cooper Avenue mall. How nice? But more on that another time.)

OK. Deep breath. Whew!

What am I talking about?

I am talking (OK, screeching) about the proposed tumor that will replace the little building that now houses Zocalito restaurant on the north side of the Hyman mall.

Let’s be clear. The existing building is not particularly worthwhile. It is thoroughly undistinguished, thoroughly inoffensive – and apparently thoroughly not profitable enough.

But the gem of nastiness that might replace it is a sharp splinter of glass right in the middle of your eyeball.

I use the word “glass” advisedly, since the building is three stories of mostly glass – a design that is disgracefully out of place in the middle of a historic block.

Think I’m overreacting? Here’s mild-mannered City Councilman Steve Skadron: “I don’t know if I’ve seen a building that leaves me more outraged than this one. I’m beside myself to think what effect on the historic core a building like this could have.”

I need some balance. Well … OK. Here’s some praise for the building (really) from a story in the Aspen Daily News: “This will be a gem of a building … transparent and translucent.”

Who spoke those kind words? Well, you know, Charles Cunniffe – the guy who designed it. He thinks it’s swell.

Who else almost certainly likes the building? I’m guessing it is well-loved by a man named John Martin, of Queenstown, New Zealand, whom I do not know, but whom I am immediately inclined to despise.

Martin owns the building and commissioned the design.

He has, we are told, built similar structures in his hometown, and they, we are assured by his ever-ready architect, Cunniffe, are “beautiful.”

The rest of us, I respectfully suggest, might be inclined to disagree.

Violently.

And, by the way, if you are looking for another nifty example of toady architect, fake-artsy, double-speak, may I suggest a few words from the architect of the newest bit of Hecht nastiness (Hecht-iness?) now up for consideration at 601 E. Hyman.

That project is also an abomination of inappropriate glass. And that building’s designer, one Sarah Broughton, says (and I quote the Aspen Daily News), “The glass panels are designed to mimic the snow pillows that pile up on the rocks of Independence Pass.”

Isn’t that sweet?

Or, to use another term, isn’t that disgraceful?

I suppose it’s nice to know that these architects love their own work – but it would be nice if they loved their own town a little more.

Let me return, for a moment, to the remarks of Cunniffe. As reported in the Daily News, “Cunniffe explained that Martin wanted to do something iconic with the building.”

“Iconic.”

Now there’s a towering turd with a cherry on top.

Martin does not simply want to make a lot of money – he wants to stick his thumb in our collective eye, now and forever more. And he demands we admire his “iconic” monument to his (iconic) ego.

Years ago, Hunter Thompson, in his campaign for Pitkin County sheriff, declared that he would change the name of Aspen to “Fat City” as a way to keep developers at bay.

Thompson was not elected. Aspen is not named Fat City. And developers, instead of being kept at bay, are baying at our heels like a pack of rabid wolves. Or should I say rabid whistle pigs?

But if this “iconic” project on the Hyman mall gets approved – along with the other glittering glassy piles on Hyman and Cooper – I think we might once again consider changing the name of Aspen.

To Ego Gulch.

And, by the way, if the Historic Preservation Commission approves these projects – as it apparently is inclined to do – we will have to change its name too. But just one word: from “preservation” to “desecration.”

“Yes,” said the mayor of Ego Gulch. “I’m sure this will be approved by the Historic Desecration Commission. The architect and the developer both say it’s beautiful.”