Copycat ‘character’ keeps us down
Character – what a potentially stifling concept. Especially when it’s been hijacked from Bavaria. A New York developer has big ideas to spruce up Vail’s aging Crossroads mall, but maybe too big for the town’s leaders. Sure, the new building is substantially bigger than the old one. But developer Peter Knobel, who owns the complex, is promising to put lots of things inside it – a bowling alley, an adult arcade a la Dave & Busters, a bigger movie theater – none of which the town has now. And hey, these things sound fun, especially when all there is to do most nights in the village is eat, buy jewelry and furs, then drink and listen to apres guitar players sterilize other people’s already sterile songs. Whether locals would be priced out of the bowling alley, arcade and movie theater is another question. But Knobel’s proposal has some folks riled up about turning Vail from a town into a “city.” Well, Vail turned into a “city” – as much of a city as it will ever be – decades ago. More and better hotels, along with fresher condos, time-shares and shops, are coming – that is, of course, if more tourists are going to come, which is undoubtedly the business plan. A sleepy, little underdeveloped ski town with little more than a row of bars and architecturally archaic hotels isn’t going to be named No. 1 in those precious ski resort rankings no matter how deep the powder in Blue Sky Basin. After a town panel that analyzes development projects recently balked on the Crossroads plan, Vail Mayor Rod Slifer, sounding wary of the proposal, said Vail has to “maintain the character we’ve always had.” Huh? Vail Village over the past four decades has gone from a free-wheeling, free-spirited ski outpost to what critics view as a price-gouging, corporatized, sanitized, tightly policed, uptight and exclusive country club for the world’s wealthiest tourists that might have turned into Beverly Hills had Earl Eaton, all those years ago, not also discovered the Back Bowls to along with the front side of Vail Mountain.The town’s leaders should seriously consider Knobel’s plan and more importantly, prioritize injecting more liveliness into the town over worrying about a building that’s a little taller than what our stodgy, Teutonic “character” might seem to dictate. Aspen has the Wheeler Opera House, where music superstars like Joni Mitchell play. Telluride – despite Oprah, the mountain village and the gondola network – still has the old ski town atmosphere (and it didn’t have to copy the Alps). Perhaps Vail in its mainly superficial renaissance should think about being the family ski town. What Knobel has in mind is a good start. Vail, Colorado
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