Paving the Way

Central City gambles on its future. Again.

There aren't many businesses in the Business Improvement District that's funding the road. The casinos chased away some of the restaurants and gift shops that had been there, and then almost all of those early casinos closed, leaving just a handful behind. "We'll see some development on the vacant property," Schmalz predicts. "That's better than mowing down everything. Even if we wanted to move mountains, they're not in the gaming area."

As for the mountains moved to build the road -- 5.5 million cubic yards of dirt and rock -- Central City acquired land from three major landowners to stretch its boundaries down to I-70. In order for those landowners to build their own exits off the road, opening all that scenic splendor to development, they'd have to get permission from Central City, says Schmalz.

Central City has been fooled before, though.

Who's your Buddy? Central City's mayor.
Mark Manger
Who's your Buddy? Central City's mayor.

Still, relationships with Black Hawk these days seem as smooth as the new road. Black Hawk's former manager, Lynnette Hailey, is now the manager of Central City. The Schmalz and Blake/Spellman families, the equivalent of the legendary Hatfield/McCoy clans, have intermarried. David Spellman, a Black Hawk alderman, is the godfather of Schmalz's baby.

The road that just a month ago was the main route to Central City leads down from Dostal past the post office, past Fortune Valley, the town's largest casino, past small shuttered casinos, past houses for sale, past Mountain Village with all the historic homes that Black Hawk has moved out of the way, past ever-larger casinos that are adding hotel rooms, adding parking lots, moving mountains, stretching all the way to the old sewage-treatment plant. But Central isn't looking down at Black Hawk anymore.

It's looking south, to I-70. It's gambling on its road to riches.

Let There Be Blight

I was out of town, reading the Boston Globe, when I learned that Colorado's reputation as the sexual-assault/college-drinking capital of the country had finally been supplanted: We were now the Christmas-bashing capital of the world.


The rumors had been flying faster than Santa's reindeer since John Hickenlooper, the second brewpub owner elected mayor in this state, had suggested to a reporter that it might be time to take down the Merry Christmas sign that's long been part of the City and County Building's annual display, and next year replace it with "Happy Holidays." Within days, the story was all over the national media -- and at the very time that Hickenlooper was in New York trying to woo that same media, too. And with every story, more whiners called to complain. On December 2, the mayor finally surrendered. "Over the past several days," he said, "it has become clear to me that there is strong community sentiment to maintain the Merry Christmas sign, and I am glad to oblige. My intention was never to disrespect or slight anyone or any religious tradition. I apologize to anyone who may have been offended or mistakenly felt I was being anti-Christmas. Hickenlooper might have two os, but I am not Scrooge."

No, but he may be blind. Has Hickenlooper looked outside his window at that hideous display? The reflection of those garish lights alone should be enough to stun anyone passing by his office. Of course Denver should dump the Merry Christmas sign: If we're going to decorate a civic building from early December through the National Western Stock Show, a simple "Happy New Year" (maybe Happy Moo Year?) is more accurate, and inclusive. And the city should also fine-tune the color scheme of the light show so the building looks less like a rancid birthday cake. The display below will always look like a Wal-Mart post-holiday sale -- what with the snowmen, reindeer and other secular items needed to get that Nativity protected status in the courts -- but for Christ's sake, dim those lights and change that sign.

Not all traditions should be cherished. The KKK was strong in Colorado in the '20s, but no one's arguing for a burning cross this holiday season.

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