Controlled Charm in Aspen
Posted on April 10, 2012
Much as old canneries connote Monterey and colonial townhouses bespeak Charleston style, a Victorian-era Main Street set against a stunning Rocky Mountain backdrop defines a sense of place in Aspen, Colorado. With the growing popularity of tourist destinations comes an uneasy tension between developing and preserving. Aspen’s current battle revolves around the town’s effort to preserve its small-town scale by returning to tougher regulation of building heights. As the Aspen Times reported today, however, the city council’s recent move to tighten its building code seemingly prompted a flurry of developers filing permits to beat the planned change, which in turn forced the council to reconsider. The mayor, nonetheless, followed up the decision with a telling remark crediting the “vitality” of downtown Aspen to regulatory efforts. Although his view is of course open to debate, a number of the essayists in American Tourism: Constructing a National Tradition, a forthcoming anthology edited by J. Mark Souther and Nicholas Dagen Bloom, offer compelling evidence of the role of regulatory actions in creating and sustaining unified physical environments that resonate with citizens and tourists alike. Indeed, the “brand” associated with the appearance of the most successful tourist attractions may well offer the best assurance that these places retain and even increase their profitability over the long term.