Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
The Aspen Historic Preservation Task Force consisted of 11 members who wanted some form of historic preservation beyond the Victorians and nine members who wouldn’t have voted for any form of involuntary restrictions if you’d put a gun to their heads. In microcosm, the whole exercise was very much like the Democrats and the Republicans digging in over the national health care program and the results the same: a watered-down proposal not worth the paper it was printed on or a minute of the endless time spent (I would not describe it as “work”) creating it.
The City Council could, seizing on the slim task force majority, run with the ball and enact tough rules against the further desecration of our historic resources, supported by the results of the Aspen Area Community Plan clicker meetings and surveys (Where the hell is that AACP report, hey? – you’ve had the data for months!).
In a bold move, the council could put the matter to a public vote. Did the task force speak for the people or did the AACP speak for the people? Ask the voters, put it to rest.
Now, the first huge challenge, it looks as if the University of Colorado is going to put the Given Institute on the chopping block for $20 million, turning that idyllic spot into another graveyard of empty trophy monoliths if the new City Council caves on this one.
Speaking of graveyards, I’m not a fan of putting words into the mouths of the deceased, but I think Mrs. Paepcke, who donated the land, would have a few harsh things to say about ripping down the Given for commercial gain.
And I doubt that Fabi Benedict ever intended for the land she donated to the Silver Lining Ranch to become a private mega-home. Is this how we protect the nonprofit status of our dwindling few acres? Find a loophole and start the excavations? Fabi would be knocking heads. The Jewish Center was the best answer there, but the NIMBYs went crazy.
It’s sad that penthouses will be going up on the Crandall building and the Aspen Athletic Club – the financial “engines” needed to be able to afford the renovations. Are the renovations (rebuilds, really) necessary? If we don’t agree, the threat is, “We could tear it down,” and no one wants that. These buildings, and any others built after the Victorian era, are not historically protected now and won’t be until or unless the city protects them.
The City Council is in a tight spot. They were stuck with a deadlocked historic preservation task force, and now they have to make decisions that will affect the character of the town forever. If the economy starts booming again, there will be even more pressure from the developers for more, bigger, higher, and each decision will be a precedent for the next. After six months of close watching, I wouldn’t hazard a guess what this new council will do. Strangely, Mick Ireland is emerging as the wild card.
Meanwhile, the Red Onion still sits silent when it could have been rollicking with Wabbs at the helm all this time, the Limelite/light Lodge (which would probably never have been approved otherwise) is in danger of losing its local ownership.
Renters at the Mine Dumps apartments could still be bringing messy vitality to that corner of the mountain (as was promised – cross my heart, hope to die, we won’t tear it down until we’re ready to build), which instead has lain fallow for years as the Lift 1-A Lodge proposal, kicking and screaming, whittled itself down for the umpteenth time.
Speaking of whittling and the Benedicts, the whittled new proposal for the Benedict Building (not considered to be historic) is soon to be presented to the council, so keep your eye on that.
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