Best Of » Urban Living

Best of Urban Living: Uniquely us


The Best Hidden-in-Plain-Sight Urban Artifact
The Massacre Monument
Boulder Crescent Park

What massacre? And what park? OK, let's start with the park. Boulder Crescent Park, which must be our smallest park, is on the west side of Cascade Avenue between Boulder and Platte. At the northeast corner of the park is a boulder, and mounted thereon is a commemorative plaque, placed on the site on September 3, 1913. It memorializes "the last massacre by Indians of Whites in the Pikes Peak Region," wherein three boys were "scalped and murdered" by "The Arapaho," which had taken place on September 3, 1868. The plaque perfectly expresses the belief that our local history is one of peaceful white settlers besieged by murderous savages. No mention of the Sand Creek massacre four years earlier, no understanding that this small and tragic incident was part of our country's brutally successful effort to decimate and resettle the Plains Indians. (JH)

Best Building
The Original Van Briggle Pottery Building
Uintah St. and Glen Ave.

Utterly unique, the Van Briggle Memorial Pottery, constructed in 1908, is the result of a collaboration between Anne Gregory Van Briggle and Dutch architect Nicholas Van den Arend. Incorporating the principles of the Arts & Crafts movement, the building was meant to be both a functional workplace and an extraordinarily beautiful building. Ornamented with hundreds, even thousands, of tiles of Anne's design, it remains a remarkable structure. Currently owned by Colorado College, it's used, inappropriately enough, as the college's maintenance center. Wouldn't it be nice if CC renovated it and restored it to its original use? Well, we can dream, can't we? (JH)

Best Urban Corner
North Nevada Avenue and Fillmore Street

So Colorado Springs has this corner with its massive, confusing intersection and weird juxtapositions. There's Ed Bircham's Office Supply company, less than a block away from the First Amendment XXX-rated video store -- a converted bank with a drive-up window. There's a 24-hour Walgreen's, all brick and solid middle-class economy and thrift, next to the bizarre little complex that houses Murphy's bar, Trivelli's hoagie stand and the tiny, ultra-packed Vienna Beef hotdog luncheonette. Across the way, the flashing upside-down neon sign of the the Robin Hood Bar (often referred to as the "Upside-down Bar") invites contemplation and adds confusion. At the corner of Fillmore and Nevada you can get your tires changed, go for a lube job, shop at K-Mart, load up on cheap Chinese food or, hey, just settle back and enjoy the bizarre view. (KCE)

Best Five Things for a Year 2000 Time Capsule

A brick from a home in the city's last downtown working-class neighborhood.

A chunk of coal from the utility company that is razing a dozen homes downtown to save money on fuel.

The city-approved building permit for one of the dozens of homes built on landslide areas in Colorado Springs.

A pupil's desk from one of the community schools likely to be closed by D-11.

A construction cone. (MH)

Best View from a Supermarket
King Soopers at Uintah Gardens
1750 Uintah St., 636-5043

Hustle hustle grab toss shove jump jostle budge, NO you can't have a candy bar, searchsearchsearch FIND runrunrun (but is it on sale?) scan blip bleep bleep where is my card? Plastic and can I get change? Gotta get home gotta go go go. Ah, the sunset over the deep blue Peak is brilliant russet, and the lights on the mountain are twinkling... See how the pink clouds are drifting to the southeast? Feel that cool breeze. Mmmm. I think I'll have wine with dinner tonight. (KS)

Best Neighborhood
Readers' Poll Winner
Old Colorado City

Colorado City was raising hell 12 years before Colorado Springs was so much as a twinkle in Palmer's entrepreneurial eye. The town maneuvered to have itself named Territorial state capital for a short while in 1862, and in the 1890s, West Colorado Avenue harbored 22 consecutive saloons where buttoned-down Little Londoners with a yen for something livelier than high tea could wet their whistles alongside gunfighters, blue collar union men, miners on holiday and assorted raconteurs and billiards virtuosi. A block to the south, brothels lined Cucharras from 25th to 27th streets, while a block to the north were the town's legitimate businesses and homes of the pillar-of-the-community types employed largely by Midland Railroad and the three gold mills. Colorado City was annexed by Colorado Springs in 1917, but it retains a heritage of live-and-let-live diversity and remains a quiet, laid-back, middle-class haven of the congenial offbeat. (BC)

Best Community Event
The Farmer's Market at Acacia Park

If you've got the urge to just mingle with humanity -- under the best of circumstances -- you can't beat the human parade at the Acacia Park Farmer's Market, downtown on Monday mornings throughout the summer and early fall. Mothers with babies in carriages loaded down with bags of corn, beets and lettuce smile as they choose their favorite colors of gladioli from big white buckets of freshly cut stems. Senior couples talk with southern Colorado farmers about this year's crop compared with last year's. Kids sucking on honey straws weave through the crowd's knees on their way to the sunken playground. Men and women in freshly pressed business suits gently press peach flesh, then return to their offices loaded down with plastic grocery bags. The sun peaks through the treetops, dappling the wet green lawn. A neighbor waves from across the way. It doesn't get better than this. (KCE)

Best High School Community Service Effort
Palmer High School
301 N. Nevada Ave., 328-5000

In 1997, Palmer students raised 6,700 lbs. of food for the annual Care & Share Drive. A little friendly competition between schools spurred them on to collect almost 16,000 lbs. the following year. Palmer's proximity to the heart of downtown Colorado Springs makes it impossible for the school to avoid having an impact on the surrounding community. Thanks to various administrative programs and individual student efforts, they've made sure that it's always positive. (WH)

Gone But Not Forgotten

Ours is a transient city; people come here to live, integrate themselves into the fabric of the community, maybe make significant contributions to our lives, and then quietly leave town. Remember Sid & Gail Snyder, whose brave activism inspired so many? They moved to Portland. And what about Citizen's Project founders Amy Divine and Doug Triggs? Boulder. Feisty former City Councilmember/mayoral candidate Cheryl Gillaspie? Tucson. Former State Senator and conspiracy theorist Charlie Duke? On the road, driving a cross-country rig. Let's wish them well, and hope that their new lives are as full and rewarding as were their years in Colorado Springs.

And many of us made that final journey, to that land "from whose bourne no traveller returneth." We lost the irreplaceable Bee Vradenburg, whose passion virtually created both the Colorado Springs Symphony and the Pikes Peak Center, as well as Lee Duran, our first Hispanic council member, and Frank Parisi, the last member of Council who was an Out Democrat. Kay Arnold's brave passing inspired us and we'll miss Marka Stewart, Cosmic Joe, and contractor Gil Johnson, who made Bee's vision into the magnificent performance hall that has enriched our lives for 20 years.

Goodby to them, and to all who have left. (JH)

Best Public Garden
Monument Valley Park Demonstration Gardens
Northeast corner of Cache La Poudre and Recreation Way

Yellows, pinks, oranges, greens,reds,
Whites, and purples, light up the bleak
Surroundings of vehicle, train and
Highway views.

Roses, southern perennials, daylilies,
Dahlias, Italian bluegrass, rosemary,
Siberian pea trees, and Spanish blooms
Surround a fountain, like an oasis
In an urban desert.

Tomatoes, rhubarb, dill and pumpkin,
Parsley, peppers, squash, zucchini,
Corn, radishes, carrots, and a lovely Ms.
Scarecrow adorn a children's garden.

A handicapped patch filled with delicious smells and
Unique textures, transplanted Heritage Garden roses
And a wild garden with a hidden stream
-- A feast for the senses at the demonstration gardens of the
Horticultural Art Society of Colorado Springs. (MM)

Best Public Uprising
Manitou Springs/Red Rock Canyon

Last March, Zydeco proposed an eyebrow-raising deal to the Manitou Springs City Council. The Santa Fe--based developer had a contract to purchase Red Rock Canyon, a stunningly scenic, 787-acre open-space parcel located between Garden of the Gods and Section 16. If Manitou would annex the park-like property and declare it a "blighted" (slum) area, Zydeco would build a resort hotel, an 18-hole golf course, 512,000 square feet of office space, 1.39 million square feet of office space, 700 apartments, 800 single-family units and 60 luxury estates. In return, Manitou would broaden its tax base from $41 million to $75 million. The proposal set dollar signs twirling in City Council eyes, but Manitou residents weren't buying it. Two separate citizen petition drives forced Council to pass an ordinance mandating that annexation of any property larger than three acres would be subject to a majority citizen vote. Last month, Zydeco petitioned for annexation by Colorado Springs instead. (BC)

Best Lawn Ornament
Cheery clown totem pole

Magellan Street, near LaSalle in the Bon neighborhood
It's a cheery clown totem pole. I'm serious. It's a column of clown heads -- the borderline creepy, old-fashioned kind -- about five-feet tall, predominantly red, yellow, brown and white, and standing in an otherwise immaculate front yard. No one knows where it came from or what it wants, but my bet is that it needs worshippin'. It could be our salvation. (KS)

Most Pressing Local Issue
Readers' Poll Winner
Growth and Development

You'd think with all the new gated, nation-states invading the prairie faster than wild-fire -- and all the new starter castles with their asphalt moats popping up everywhere -- that people would be happy with the amount of growth and development going on in Colorado Springs.

But nooooo!

When we asked voters in our "Best Of" readers poll what the most pressing local issue is, they overwhelmingly reported that "growth and development" were their biggest concerns.

Gosh, you just can't please some people.

Let me personally assure you, folks, the developers are working as fast as they can. Especially now with possible passage of Amendment 24 looming over the range like some great big tornado, those developers are working double time trying to submit development plans so they are exempted from the measure's provisions. Now that's commitment, folks.

True, they've been so busy emptying their bank accounts to fight that nasty anti-sprawl measure, Amendment 24 -- oh, and dishing out broth and bread at the soup kitchen to show their unflagging devotion to affordably housing -- that they've been slacking off on their pace.

But ya gotta believe me, folks, they're working as hard as they can to accommodate those who are on the verge of castle-less-ness. Just the other day, I talked to man with tears in his eyes who told me he was practically living in his Lexus because he was so busy driving around the state trying to consummate land deals and fight Amendment 24.

Please people, give these poor folks a break! Not a minute goes by when there aren't a dozen developers subdividing and conquering as many former ranches as they can.

As for our elected officials, have no fear. I can assure you, they too are working as hard as they can to make sure that growth and development are item, A-number one. Sure, they're starting to talk like they worry about the effects of growth on boring stuff like "city infrastructure" and "service provision levels." And sure, they're starting to say things like "new urbanism," "mixed use," and "smart growth," as well as push for some cosmetic changes so that growth doesn't look so bad when you take pictures of it from satellites.

But I can assure you that -- to a one -- the seven council people now elected to run this town are not going to let anything get in between their city and the Kansas border.

Okay, I can understand you're concerned. There's still all that empty prairie out there with absolutely nothing going on. I mean, what are they waiting for, right? Times a wastin'. We could be growing now, gosh darnit! Why procrastinate?

These are all legitimate concerns. But don't worry, that's why we have the planning process. I can assure you, the planners down at city hall are the very best in their field, and they already have every square inch of those rolling fields accounted for, down to the last culvert, parking space and prairie dog colony.

So to me, this whole debate boils down to a contest between two different types of people: those who say the prairie's half empty, and those who say it's half full. To those who say it's half empty, I say, "Cheer up. Look on the bright side. There's all that much more growth that we can still enjoy." To those who say it's half full, I say, "Our cup runneth over."

Let's stop complaining about the lack of growth and let's get out there and do something about it. Organize a night-time raid on Preebles Jumping Mouse colonies. Pick up a hammer and go down to the nearest construction site. Ask the foreman if you can get up on that roof and start slapping down tarpaper. Join the thousands of Mexican nationals who have generously come here to practically volunteer their time to help us in our time of need.

Go down to Norwood Development, or NES, or any of the hundreds of developers and planning consultants and ask what you can do to help. Don't bitch about growth and development, do something about it! Be a point of light -- or better yet, volunteer to be a traffic light, since those pesky tax activists have made it impossible for us to pay for any more of them.

In the meantime, try to enjoy the growth we already have. Take a drive northeast of town on the edge of the prairie in what was ranch land only a few years ago. I guarantee you'll see more bulldozers than bulls, more hard hats than Stetsons.

Still not convinced? Drive I-25 at rush hour, or Academy Boulevard on a Saturday afternoon. If you're still alive and not front-page news the next day, then surely you will be comforted. Need more reassurance? Just run your eyes down at the $600 million backlog in capital improvements identified by city administrators.

Well, I can't expect to bring solace to all of you. But I hope that this little essay of mine will bring at least some warm, fuzzy feelings to those of you who are still think that growth and development are our most pressing local issues. (MH)

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