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Best Of 2006

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Best Of :: People & Places

BEST LAST-MINUTE SAVE
OF A HISTORIC BUILDING

It's been empty for more than thirty years, and before rehabilitation started nearly two years ago, the 1904 Evans School looked like it wouldn't need to be demolished, because it just might fall down all by itself. But the quality of the design by architect David W. Dryden, who did it in a Palladian style, was undeniably high, and not only were the bones of the decrepit building beautiful, but they occupied a prominent site near the Denver Art Museum complex. It seemed clear that the Evans School should be saved -- and when owner Richard Eber dragged his heels, the city stepped in to make sure he got the project back on track. Although there's still work to be done, it's now a good bet that this fine old structure will survive for another hundred years.

BEST NEW JOB FOR GOVERNOR BILL OWENS

Governor Bill Owens says that when he's term-limited out of the governor's office in January 2007, he'll go into the "private sector," but it's not too late for him to reconsider and give just a few more years to public service. (No need to go the full Roy Romer route and become superintendent of Los Angeles schools -- although that job's about to be open, too.) At one point, Owens was touted as a potential presidential contender -- so there's no reason he shouldn't head the list as a vice-presidential contender. And the White House could use some fresh blood, particularly blood that hasn't been shed by a friend of the current vice president. At some point, Dick Cheney's got to go -- to hell, to the hospital, wherever -- and who better than Texas native Owens to keep George W. company through the rest of his term? Not only has the genial Owens proven his ability to debate almost anyone, the ACLU included, on the national stage, but he's an accomplished hunter who's never, ever shot anyone, confirms spokesman Dan Hopkins.

BEST NEW JOB FOR DAN HOPKINS

No matter where Marc Holtzman is next January -- and we're betting it won't be the governor's office -- the shoot-from-the-lip Republican challenger could use a smooth, personable frontman. And there's no one more personable than Dan Hopkins, current spokesman for Governor Bill Owens. When his boss leaves office, Hopkins will be sixty and eligible to retire after 24 years in the state system -- assuming PERA still exists, of course. But should the state retirement system go down the tubes, Holtzman could do a lot worse than latch onto Hopkins. Sorry, Dan.

BEST CANNON FODDER
Colorado State Capitol

The State Capitol is full of many surprising finds -- and that's even before you set foot on the floor of the House or the Senate. For starters, there's the fact that unlike at the Denver City and County Building, the Capitol has no security check, so you can wander in and out at will. And as you wander, you can gaze at great artwork dating from all eras of Colorado history, look up at the impressive interior of the dome (now closed to most traffic, sadly), and even see a public servant or two putting your money to use. Although the elevators have recently been overhauled from their creaky, cranky former condition, don't skip the stairs: The cannonballs on the railings are genuine Civil War artifacts.

200 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 80203
MAP
303-866-2604
BEST POLITICAL PLAY-BY-PLAY

At the Colorado Legislature, you often can't tell the players without a scorecard -- and fortunately, Rocky Mountain News reporter Lynn Bartels is there to keep score. When she's not breaking news (and there's been plenty this session), she's offering amusing, insightful play-by-play on the various wins and losses. Unlike Denver's sports-page stars, politicians play for keeps. But so does Bartels.

BEST POLITICAL DECISION

It took him long enough, but in the end, John Hickenlooper made the right decision. Disappointing those who wanted him to run for governor (and divide the Colorado Democratic Party in the process), he opted instead to complete a whole term (at least) as mayor of Denver, continuing to push the impressive, ambitious agenda that has already put him on the national political map. Today and tomorrow, the city; there's time enough for the world after that.

BEST POLITICAL AD

Democratic state senator Ken Gordon got his campaign for Colorado Secretary of State off to a rousing start with a quirky, hilarious Internet ad poking fun at other politicians' more memorable stunts, including John Hickenlooper's not-quite-free-fall to push Amendment C. But Gordon didn't stop at just jumping out of a plane; he also paid homage to former senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell with a horseback bit during which he warily asked of his horse's wrangler, "Why is he called 'Widow Maker'?" We don't know if this is how campaigns are won -- but it's sure what makes them fun.

BEST COLORADO AMBASSADORS

We couldn't make up a story this outlandish. Ten years ago, former society scribe (for 87 days), artist and car-parker Ivan Suvanjieff decided he needed to do something to convince kids to stop the violence, and so started PeaceJam. Today he and partner Dawn Engle run a global operation out of an Arvada bungalow, organizing more than a dozen conferences for kids around the world each year and answering to a board of Nobel Peace Prize winners. The Nobels are all coming to Denver in September 2006 -- only Oslo will have seen a larger group of Nobel Peace Prize winners -- to mark the tenth anniversary of PeaceJam at a major gathering of thousands of youth from around the world. Give peace a chance -- PeaceJam did.

BEST COLORADO AMBASSADOR -- SENIOR DIVISION

Sixty years ago, Rockmount Ranchwear's Jack A. Weil put the snap in snap-button shirts. And today, as the country's oldest working CEO at 105 (as of March 28), he's still full of snappy repartee. CBS News profiled Jack A. (his son, Jack B., works in the business, as does grandson Steve) earlier this year, following him through Rockmount's once-and-future headquarters at 1626 Wazee Street, showing its museum of Westernwear as well as its current lines, coveted by stars and working cowboys alike. But the real showstopper, as always, was Jack A., who had this reply to the reporter's question of how he wanted to be remembered: "I don't give a damn."

BEST NEXT HOME FOR
CONEY ISLAND

After 36 years in Aspen Park, the historic Coney Island hot dog stand is now an official resident of Bailey, where the giant stucco landmark will be open by summer. But should gentrification -- or one of those wildfires that always seem headed for Bailey -- endanger the hot dog's new home, we have the perfect placement for Coney Island's next incarnation: Tiny Town, just off U.S. 285 along South Turkey Creek Road. Frankly, we relish how majestic that building would look sitting by the tiny railroad, near all those diminutive dwellings. Hot dog!

BEST SAVE FOR UNION STATION

With Union Station slated for a major overhaul, it looked like one of its tenants might have reached the end of the line. The Colorado Midland Railway, the oldest model-railroad layout in the country, has been tucked into the basement of Union Station since 1935, where it's been run by volunteers from the Denver Society of Model Railroaders. But a model railroad wasn't in the plans for Union Station's redevelopment -- not until one particular train buff jumped on board. The layout, which is open to the public for two hours on the last Friday of every month, is a particular favorite of John and Teddy Hickenlooper, and thanks to some mayoral maneuvering, this train will be pulling into the station for years to come.

BEST ESTIMATE FOR WHEN
T-REX WILL BE FINISHED

It was fun while it lasted. Not. Over the past five years, we've all had ample opportunity to get up-close and personal with T-Rex, the massive, $1.67 billion project designed to ease congestion and speed up traffic through the southeast metro corridor but in the meantime blocking roads and sending drivers off on thrill-ride detours. Still, if the pace of construction is any indication of T-Rex's ultimate success, we'll all soon be speeding along I-25 -- in cars or on light-rail trains. At of the start of the year, the project was 91 percent complete, with the last stretches in the seventeen-mile paving process scheduled for fall completion and the complete light-rail system slated to open on November 17, 2006. Keep your fingers crossed -- and both eyes on the road.

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BEST LAST-MINUTE SAVE
OF A HISTORIC BUILDING: Evans School 1115 Acoma St.

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