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"Central City has protected its historic integrity," Drinkhouse adds. With this road, the town can be a "viable community with gaming as an industry. We want to be a total town. All our historic buildings are intact."

Even if many are empty.
Once the contract is awarded, just one last roadblock remains. The owner of a crucial piece of land in Hidden Valley, just outside Idaho Springs, is being rather obstinate.

That owner, of course, is Black Hawk, which last fall hurried to snap up the property for its water project when it heard Central City needed it for a road. Too late to buy the land itself, Central City scurried to condemn it.

The two towns will meet in court next month over this teeny-tiny disagreement.

"There's room for both," says Drinkhouse. "Black Hawk is making a blatant effort to block."

Black Hawk spokesman Roger Baker points to his town's push for a "universal settlement agreement" between the two rivals, which would preclude many clashes. "They could be resolved," he says, "without us going back and forth for the rest of the millennium condemning each other's land."

Don't bet on it.
Besides legal bills and land acquisitions, Black Hawk's overflowing coffers have subsidized a variety of luxuries Central City can only dream of. Grants so that every resident can fix up his house in a historically appropriate manner. More grants so that those houses have completely modern utility systems. And next month, Black Hawk will bring in an appraiser so that residents can have their antique treasures valued for free at City Hall.

Someone should haul over the Lace House.

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