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It’s time to get it done

Roger Marolt

When is town going to be finished?I hope I live to see it. I wish someone could put together all the artists’ renderings that have graced City Hall bulletin boards, county meeting room walls, glossy post office box stuffers and the pages of this newspaper so that we could at least get an overview, just in case. They say it is going to be fabulous. Now, before you jump to any conclusions, I urge you to read on. This is not a column about halting development. Oh no, far from it. This is about speeding up change. It’s about wondering what the result of change actually looks like when it is completed. This is about the ultimate change that nobody around here has seen in 20 years: peace and quiet! I have become an impatient man.In viewing old pictures of this town there are a surprising number of things that look familiar. The view south down Galena Street is essentially the same as it was in the mining days. Needless to say, we do a pretty decent job of keeping the look of downtown intact. We just raise a hell of a lot of dust and noise in doing so. That has to change! Maybe we need to worry a little less about how this place used to look and concentrate a little more on getting the modern Aspen done. I’m afraid that all of this preservation hoopla might be slowing us down, prolonging the agony of this perpetual construction project. You wouldn’t put an old man’s face on a trophy wife’s son, would you? Then why do we want a historic storefront on a modern building?Personally, I don’t care anymore if you raze every damn structure in town and replace it with completely new stuff. I don’t care if the grocery store becomes a condominium complex. It doesn’t matter to me if the Isis is converted into a timeshare outlet store. Let’s just get it over with! I want to know what Aspen really looks like.Let’s start with the dozen or so buildings downtown that were intended to survive only long enough to perpetuate a couple of mining company stock swindles back in 1885, not to be preserved for posterity. It’s time for some housecleaning to get rid of the crap that never should have been built in the first place. It’s only an idea. But, let’s get moving!We don’t need lovey-doves in white T-shirts emblazoned with silk-screened “I [love] Aspen” hearts to tell us to slow things down. We need people in sleeveless, checked shirts with “I [love] Mom” hearts tattooed on their biceps who know a thing or two about operating heavy equipment. We don’t need moratoriums to catch our breath. We need night shifts so that the work never stops. Let’s not limit the number of building permits. Let’s hire more people at City Hall to process them more quickly. No builder should have to wait more than 20 minutes.Do you see where I’m gong with this? We need to speed things up around here, weed out the procrastinators who would have this whole makeover of Aspen continue up until that very time when every last one of us has moved in to that ultimate gated community in the sky. There has to be a deadline. How about this: Whatever you want to do with your property, you must break ground by the end of next year. We’ll keep city and county offices open late to accommodate your requests. No reasonable offer to construct will be refused.But, a warning to the laggards: These projects must be completed, and I mean a certificate of occupancy issued, by Dec. 31, 2009 (this probably means that many of you will have to work through Christmas that year). I don’t want to hear any excuses, either. After that date, we will not build, remodel or tear down anything for 20 years. We won’t even so much as rearrange the living room furniture! Come on now, we all have to agree to this.If not finished by then, we are going to turn the slacker projects over to the more efficient contractors, judged on the number of square feet they complete before the deadline, and give them two months to turn them into whatever they can. They will not be limited to any plans whatsoever!I expect that we’ll be able to form cheering squads of real estate brokers, mortgage lenders, and title company clerks to offer encouragement to the construction crews and hand out cups of cold Gatorade and hot coffee at aid stations set up on the edge of fresh foundation pits. You think we’re setting sales records now, huh? You haven’t seen anything yet! We can hire the Skico to inform the world that we are using eco-friendly wind-powered jackhammers and smokeless dynamite. Hell, there’ll be so much commotion around here that we might even be able to build a commuter train and nobody will even notice. Then, on Jan. 1, 2010, we’ll truly have something to celebrate. Can you imagine? We’ll have made so much money off this uber-boom that we can all retire. For the first time in decades we will wake to – SILENCE! The streets will be free from the stink of diesel-powered machinery and the ear-piercing beeps of tractors in reverse. Mud in the crosswalks will disappear. Dust will be a memory. Traffic will flow freely, unencumbered by sluggish, ubiquitous yellow construction contraptions. Profanity will be reduced significantly, and tool belts will go on sale! The city and county building departments, planing and zoning commissions, and historical preservation club will be eliminated, reducing local government staffing to half of what it is now. Political bickering will come to a halt, replaced by resplendent compliments of praise over the beauty of what we have created. Trust me; it will be something we will be telling the grandkids about: “I was there on the day Aspen was finally finished!”Somebody make sure we get a picture. Roger Marolt can be torn apart at roger@maroltllp.com


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