City Selects Downtown Library Location for Mexican American Cultural Center

On Tuesday, a bit more than week after being revealed to the public, City Council members voted on the Downtown Library as the site for the new Mexican American Cultural Center.

The Main Branch of the El Paso Public Library is located at 501 North Oregon Street, adjacent to the El Paso Museum of History.

According to city officials, the MACC will be located in the 40,000-square-foot wing of the Main Library that opened in 2007.

Via a news release, officials shared the following:

 “This site was selected following Council direction in October of 2017, to explore alternative sites for the Mexican American Cultural Center within the Downtown Arts District that would complement existing cultural assets and foster collaborative partnerships. Since then, staff explored a variety of sites in or adjacent to the Downtown Arts District, using the preferred amenities and programming needs previously articulated by the Mexican American Cultural Center Subcommittee to City Council. These included spaces for galleries, classrooms, a teaching kitchen, an auditorium and black box theatre as well as close proximity to public transportation and other cultural institutions.”

During public comment, several citizens spoke up against the new location, many asking for the vote to be postponed, as they felt the MACC was deserving of its own location.  Many were also dismayed at the rapid selection of the new site, and the reveal during a meeting on September 13th; community members protested at that meeting as well.

City Representatives  Alexsandra Annello (District 2) and Peter Svarzbein (District 1) voted to postpone the decision, however that failed and the vote proceeded.

When the vote to approve the location was made, opponents were upset, including former City Council candidate and local activist Jud Burgess, whose alleged outburst prompted police officers to physically remove him from Council Chambers, and later place him under arrest for what EPPD officials said was ‘resisting arrest and disturbing a public meeting.’

As for the decision, various city officials shared their enthusiasm about the project and the location.

“We’re thrilled to be able to launch another of the signature projects approved by 2012 voters. The approved site is primed for success dovetailing with so many public and private developments taking place in the Downtown Arts District. We can’t wait for a permanent facility to showcase the breadth and vitality of Mexican American cultural production,” said Tracey Jerome, Director of the City’s Museum and Cultural Affairs Department.

I have worked at the library for the past 24 years and I am excited about this opportunity to collocate with the MACC. This project will provide us with the resources to continue to expand and enhance our highly sought after programs and services,” said Norma Martinez, Assistant Director of Library Services.

City officials said that the Main Library “will receive upgrades to ensure all current services and amenities are maintained or enhanced with unique programs such as cultural literacy programs. Library amenities to be preserved include: stacks (books, periodicals and media); specialized children’s section, teen town, adult education space (computer lab/classroom); Border Heritage Center and archives, Friends of the Library Store, Tom Lea Mural, potential public co-working space, and library administration.”

“Close proximity to the El Paso Museum of History, the El Paso Museum of Art, ArtSpace El Paso and the site of the future El Paso Children’s Museum will help facilitate easy collaboration and partnerships,” officials added via a news release.

Once completed, the MACC will feature traveling and local exhibitions, dance and theatre programming, a recording facility and a culinary program.

The MACC is one three signature projects approved by voters as part of the 2012 Quality of Life Bond with an original project budget of $5.7 million.