Su Lum: Slumming

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Ah, the plaza, the Galena Street Plaza, the plaza drawn with disappearing ink. Which shell is it under? This one? That one? Fooled you once, twice, thrice, but you still lay down your money. Step right up, ladies and gentlemen – place your bets.

Now it’s a convention center, now a community center, now a commissioners meeting place with room for the whole town to come in and bitch about the regulations – cast your votes at the clicker session for wall-to-wall development with overlook vistas and office spaces, landscaped and enhanced right down to the world-class Rio Grande skateboard park and the becoming-permanent theater. What can we do to replace that ugly field?

Here are the blueprints, the story poles, the 3-D slide shows and the scale models. Bigger is better, and that’s our job.

If we can’t agree on an entrance to Aspen, make a grand entrance to the Grande Plaza with a trillion-dollar golden staircase lined with diamonds in the shape of aspen leaves and rubies shaped like broken hearts.

The long-range planners and the short-range planners and the midrange planners and the master planners and the junior planners and the Community Development Department all put their heads together and brainstorm and wordsmith and facilitate and come up with renderings and Powerpoints and drawings of peasants dancing in the street while the citizens groan and ask themselves how this got started and the planners wonder, “Why can’t you people make up your minds?”

The committees and the commissions and the task forces and the advisory boards, the parks people, the traffic people and the social engineers shred 113 acres of trees to make the paper for their scribble sheets on those big easels and fill 71 cardboard cartons with dried-up, erasable felt markers for the white boards to reach consensus on the Galena Plaza, which has now been rebranded as a “campus.”

Still you don’t like it. What’s with you guys?

So OK, we’ll cut it down. See the lady get sawed in half. Gone are the convention center and the community center. On hold are the plans to rippety tear the Courthouse Plaza and Elizabeth Callahan’s house. The diamond and ruby-trimmed golden staircase has miraculously disappeared with the wave of a wand.

This is the bare bones, folks. You’re gonna love it. All we need now is 53 parking spaces in front of the courthouse – that strip of grass with the crab apple trees isn’t historic anyway, and who cares if it looks like the Gestapo of the Rockies?

If you don’t like that, we can tear up the side road and the traffic circle and turn it into a parking lot, scenic of course – them’s your choices. This is the rock-bottom line.

What’s that you say, Mayor Ireland? What about keeping the status quo? Of course we can’t do that, you nudnick. There are safety considerations involved if we’re bringing 62,574 new pedestrians into that space – wasn’t that what you said you wanted back in 1983 when we started this?

Su Lum is a longtime local who hopes to see this white elephant vanish. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at