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Tag Archives: downtown arena

Senator Rodríguez’s Statement on Multi-Purpose Facility Ruling

Senator José Rodríguez released the following statement Monday, in response to a ruling by an Austin judge that would allow the City of El Paso to build a multi-purpose facility it plans to build in the Duranguito neighborhood, but the facility cannot be intended for sports:

The judge has clearly told the city it cannot build a sports facility, which the city clearly had been planning. Enough is enough. Duranguito can be restored and become an asset to both residents and visitors.

How? It can be done through the development of the neighborhood itself as a cultural and performing arts facility.

In conjunction with the neighborhood’s historically important buildings, and the Mexican American Cultural Institute at the Abraham Chavez Theater, this could be a walkable, living historical community that would be an international heritage tourism attraction. The city must not allow any further destruction of this neighborhood, especially in light of the preliminary findings of the historical survey.

If the city wants to build a sports facility, it should let the public know clearly that’s its intention, and it should start that process over in an open and transparent way.

People who voted in the most recent mayoral election are eligible to sign Paso del Sur’s most recent petition in support of creating a historic district in Barrio Duranguito.

The petition can be signed at the District Office located at 100 N Ochoa St. Suite A.

Sacred Heart Church to Hold Procession Honoring the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Duranguito

Fr. Rafael García, S.J., of Sagrado Corazón Catholic Church will lead a procession honoring the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in solidarity with the vulnerable people of barrio Duranguito tonight at 7 p.m.

The participants will walk, reflect on Scripture and pray the rosary for the safety and well-being of the impacted residents of the neighborhood who have been struggling to maintain their community in the face of evictions and the imminent threat of demolition.

For over a century, Sagrado Corazón Catholic Church has served the people of South El Paso, including Duranguito.

Sagrado Corazón stands with the vulnerable residents of Duranguito, who are typically of low-income and immigrants, as well as for the preservation of historic neighborhoods and architecture in our city. In the words of Pope Francis:

“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 19)

The procession will begin at 7:00 p.m. at Firemen’s Memorial Park, 316 West Overland and proceed through the neighborhood. The matachines, Danza del Sagrado Corazón will join the event.

For more information, interested persons can contact Fr. Rafael García, S.J., Associate Pastor and Ministry with Migrant and Refugee Persons, at Sacred Heart Church at 915-532-5447.

Coalition to Preserve Neighborhood Slated for Arena to Present Petition to City Monday

Paso del Sur (PDS), a coalition to preserve Duranguito in Union Plaza, will be submitting over 2,400 signatures to the City of El Paso, in hopes of saving the neighborhood in downtown, slated for demolition for the proposed arena.

The petitions are the result of several weeks of collection and request that a Historic-overlay be established in Duranguito, creating the historic district that the city’s own architectural survey had recommended 19 years ago.

According to the group’s news release, the coalition includes “residents of Barrio Duranguito, the small business owners of El Tiradero Market, Paso del Sur, the El Paso History Alliance, as well as the people of El Paso who stand against the displacement of our communities and the erasure of our history.”

PDS Officials go on to state, “This petition is a direct call by the registered voters of El Paso County to Mayor Oscar Leeser, City Council Representatives Peter Svarzbein, Jim Tolbert, Emma Acosta, Carl L. Robinson, Dr. Michiel Noe, Claudia Ordaz, Lily Limon, Cortney Niland and their successors to designate Duranguito as a historic district and prevent the demolition of El Paso’s first and oldest neighborhood.”

 “The city propaganda machine would have us believe that the fight for Barrio Duranguito has been lost—that there is only one holdout in the neighborhood unwilling to sell. However, with the submission of this petition we will show that the people of El Paso stand firm, in solidarity with the residents and small business owners in Duranguito, calling on the Mayor and City Council Representatives of El Paso to move the arena, not the people.” PDS officials added.

The petition will be submitted to City Clerk Richarda Duffy Momsen at her office Monday afternoon. Officials say that immediately after the petition is turned in, a statement will be given to the media in front of City Hall.

To read our previous coverage of the arena saga, click HERE.  Photo gallery courtesy Jon Eckberg

Save Barrio Duranguito Festival set for Friday

The residents and small vendors of Duranguito invite all El Pasoans to celebrate the rich culture and history of their neighborhood. To that end, the residents have organized a ‘Save Barrio Duranguito Festival.’

There will be activities and cultural workshops for the whole family, food trucks, educational booths, historical walking tours of Duranguito and music from 4 to 10 pm on Friday, May 5th – the day before City elections.

Residents are invited to come listen to son jarocho, Chinese dance performance, an all-women mariachi group, danzantes Aztecas and more. The evening will end with an open air performance by Frontera Bugalú.

When: May 5 from 4 to 10 pm

Where: Mercado Tiradero/Duranguito Arts Market (corner of Paisano and Chihuahua Street)

Program

4:00 Bienvenida and Opening Remarks

4:15 Blessing/Oración Fr. Garcia

Followed by a bilingual Historical Tour (Dr. David Romo & Dr. Max Grossman)

5:00 Danza Azteca Omecoatl

5:30 Performance by the Ai-Hwa Chinese School

6:00 Fandango con Maria, Yahvi, Rubi, and Leo /Dr. Max Grossman

7:00 Mariachi Femenil Flores Mexicanas

7:30 Los Dos, Mexican muralism and resistance

8:00 Spoken word/Poetry

9:30 Los Dos, Mexican muralism and resistance

10:00 Frontera Bugalú

Sen. Rodríguez’s Remarks to City Council on Proposed Multipurpose Arena

The following is the text of the statement read during public comment at Tuesday morning’s El Paso City Council meeting on behalf of state Sen. José Rodríguez:

The City of El Paso is growing. As it does, we consistently are faced with decisions at every level about how to support the growth, how to encourage it, and how to manage it for the benefit of our residents and newcomers.

One way to do that is through quality-of-life investments. Most recently, municipal voters in 2012 gave the City of El Paso permission to sell bonds for almost $500 million in projects. Included in that were more than $200 million for three signature projects.

Those were the Children’s Museum, Hispanic Cultural center, and a multipurpose performing arts and entertainment facility, which was introduced under the heading of “Museum, Cultural, Performing Arts, and Library Facilities.”

El Paso voters gave this permission because they wanted to invest in themselves. I myself was one of them. We wanted quality of life amenities at both the neighborhood level in the form of parks and other amenities, and at the regional level in the form of museums and other cultural facilities.

We still want this. However, we require two things to make it happen the right way.

  • We need to know that these projects will enhance our community, which means respecting the people, places, and history that is so special and unique to El Paso.
  • We need to know that we are getting exactly what we asked for, that there was a process that was consistent, transparent, and inclusive every step of the way.

People did not vote for an arena. They voted for a “multipurpose center” meant for performances and cultural events.

Down to the terms used for the facility, the process has lacked transparency.

The vote to impose the facility on Duranguito was Oct. 18, 2016, only days after a proposed location was announced not by the Mayor or any City Council members but by city staff.

On that day, members of the public were able to see a presentation regarding the site selection for the first time. This presentation was not included as backup on the agenda.  There was conflicting information regarding whether property owners and residents had been contacted, and what they had been told.

There were questions about parking and traffic. There were inconsistent assertions made about efforts to discuss other properties, specifically the railroad; spokesmen for Union Pacific had to clarify incorrect statements made about contacts made with the railroad, and about supposed demands by the railroad for a number of crossings to be closed.

The extent and nature of the facility “footprint” itself, and the impact on surrounding areas has not been clear throughout the process. Neither has the question of federal beautification monies put into the neighborhood not for economic development, but for the residents themselves.

And importantly, there is the question of respect for history. That has been particularly concerning to me. Both the major bodies set up to help restore, protect, and nurture El Paso’s historic neighborhoods voted to oppose the location, as did the City Plan Commission, and the city itself in 1998 called for detailed study and long-term preservation. Yet, the city is moving towards the destruction of an irreplaceable piece of the “First Ward,” part of the first Anson Mills plat map of 1859.

These questions pile on top of the original question – the nature of the facility City Council put forth and the voters approved – and are of such deep concern that I am in support of whatever means may be necessary to stop an irreversible action that will wipe out history and community.

City to Host Series of Open House Meetings Regarding Downtown Arena Next Week

The City is hosting open-house style meetings, one per representative district, to increase community awareness about the multipurpose center project history, including the studies indicating the best location for the facility.

For nearly 20 years, studies conducted by the City have recommended a downtown multipurpose center, or arena, as a catalyst for economic development and attracting quality events and entertainment.

According to city officials, via the news release, “The location for the multipurpose center was set in November 2012, when voters approved the bond proposition for the 2012 Quality of Life Bond election.”

“The language of the full bond proposition stated the multipurpose center would be “located in downtown.” The ordinance and the election results supporting the bond program formed a contract between the City and the voters. Not delivering the project in downtown would break the City’s contract with voters, violate state law and expose the City to potential lawsuits,” officials stated via the release.

Studies conducted in 2001 and 2006 have identified the Union Plaza area as the preferred site for a multipurpose center. In 2012, Plan El Paso identified the Union Plaza area as a location that should be considered for a multipurpose center. A 2015 study reinforced finding by the 2001 and 2006 studies by identifying the Union Plaza area as the most favorable site for the MPC.

WHO:          City of El Paso

WHAT:         Open House Meetings

WHEN:        6 p.m.  to 7:30 p.m.

WHERE:      March 23: Andress High School, 5400 Sun Valley, cafeteria

March 27: Pebble Hills Elementary, 11145 Edgemere, gym

March 29: Mesita Elementary, 3307 Stanton, cafeteria

March 30: Bel-Air High School,  731 Yarbrough, cafeteria

April 3: Montwood High, 12000 Montwood, cafeteria

April 5: Grandview Senior Center, 3134 Jefferson

April 6: Convention Center in downtown

April 10Location TBA

Residents Join Forces for Petition to Establish a “Duranguito Historic District”

Via an email news release, local Architectural Historian Max Grossman announced a new push to keep a portion of Downtown El Paso from demolition to build a multi-purpose arena.

“I am pleased to announce a citizens’ initiative to establish a “Duranguito Historic District” on the edge of downtown El Paso,” Grossman writes, we wish to see implemented the recommendations of the 1998 City of El Paso survey, which includes creating a historic district within the boundaries of Union Plaza”

“The H-overlay district will recognize and commemorate the history, culture and people of the historic barrio.”

Grossman says the petition drive is co-organized by the El Paso History Alliance, Paso del Sur, and Save the Union Plaza Neighborhood in tandem with “friends and allies from throughout the community.”

“It is our hope that once the City has verifed the signatures on the petition that the City Council will enact the proposed ordinance. If not, the City Charter provides us with a path to place the ordinance on the ballot of the next general election specified in State law, Grossman adds.

To help get the petition off the ground, supporters will host a closed-door training session at the Rock House Cafe at 400 West Overland Avenue, in the heart of Duranguito, at 12:00pm.

All members of the general public are invited to assist with the petition effort; volunteers are asked to bring a laptop computer with Microsoft Excel installed. Shortly after the training session, supporters will be setting up petition stations at strategic locations and will continue collecting and verifying signatures until they reach the number required by law.

In order to create the district, Grossman and other preservationists are invoking Article 3.11 of the City Charter, and organizing petition. The petition reads:

We, the undersigned, being registered voters who voted in the last general election of the City of El Paso do hereby sign this petition pursuant to Section 3.11 of the Charter of the City of El Paso.  We request the City Council of the City of El Paso to place the proposed ordinance described below on the City Council agenda for a City Council meeting to be held within thirty (30) working days after receipt of this petition, which contains the names, addresses, dates of birth and signature dates of the petitioners, all of whom are registered voters who voted in the last general election of the City of El Paso.  We affirm that we are registered voters who voted in the last general election of the City of El Paso.  The proposed ordinance is as follows:

THAT THE AREA WITHIN THE CITY OF EL PASO WHOSE BOUNDARIES ARE WEST SAN ANTONIO AVENUE ON THE NORTH, PAISANO DRIVE ON THE SOUTH, DURANGO STREET ON THE WEST AND SOUTH SANTA FE STREET ON THE EAST IS HEREBY DESIGNATED AS AN HISTORIC LANDMARK AND AN HISTORIC DISTRICT (ALSO KNOWN AS AN H-OVERLAY DISTRICT) AS PROVIDED IN SECTION 20.20.040 OF THE EL PASO CITY CODE AND SHALL BE SUBJECT TO THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 20.20.080 OF THE EL PASO CITY CODE.  THE AREA DESCRIBED HEREIN SHALL BE KNOWN AS THE DURANGUITO HISTORIC DISTRICT.  THE BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT ARE SHOWN ON FIGURE 5.52 ATTACHED HERETO.

Duranguito Historic DIstrict

 

Mayor Leeser Issues Statement, Provides Clarification on Multipurpose Cultural and Performing Arts Center

Late Thursday evening, the City of El Paso released a statement from Mayor Oscar Leeser, regarding several issues brought to light regarding the Downtown arena.

What follows is that release/statement, in its entirety.

To ensure El Pasoans have the correct information with regard to the Quality of Life Bond Program, particularly the Multipurpose Cultural and Performing Arts Center (MPC), Mayor Oscar Leeser today is clarifying misinformation about this signature bond project.

“When I took office in June 2013, it was my duty to carry out the desires of the voters. With the passage of the 2012 bond election, as Mayor, it is my responsibility to ensure that all of the projects are executed and to the highest quality,” Mayor Oscar Leeser said. “Unfortunately, there have been many misconceptions of what is required under the passage of bond and in fact, how quickly my Administration has acted to rollout the projects.”

Clarification on Why Downtown?

The ordinance calling the 2012 bond election was approved by City Council on August 14, 2012. The proposition called for “Museum, Cultural, Performing Arts, and Library Facilities” called for a “Multipurpose performing arts and entertainment facility located in Downtown El Paso.” Due to the location designation within the ordinance, the MPC must be located within the downtown footprint.

Clarification on Timeline

When the City of El Paso originally promoted the bond election, the bond was a 15-year initiative.  The arena, as originally proposed was one of the last projects to be completed.

On February 5, 2013, the previous City Council approved a three-year rollout plan for bond program projects totaling approximately $101.4 million.

The rollout plan for the bond program may be modified. The City has the ability to accelerate or slow down the construction based on its ability to pay back the debt, or bonds issued for the projects.

During the third-year of the rollout plan, City Council decided to accelerate the projects, and on January 26, 2016, City Council voted on an 8-year rollout for the remainder of the projects.

This final phase identified $416 million in projects, including $204 million in signature projects.

Clarification on Funding to Accelerate Projects

Original debt models showed Quality of Life bond project funding out to 2028, essentially a 15-year initiative. In late 2014, in order to take advantage of a favorable bond market, staff worked at the direction of City  Council to come in within a 10-year rollout with specifications that land acquisition dollars and for the MPC be allocated in the early years.

City Council has accelerated the funding for the projects since early 2016 with the current debt issuance standing at $248,975,328 out of the $473,250,000 authorized. According to the debt issue schedule presented to Council in 2014, to date we would only have issued $83,363,000 if Council had not accelerated the rollout of the projects.

A total of 44 quality of life bond projects have been completed to date. The majority of those projects are nestled in neighborhoods where they can be enjoyed by residents. Accelerating the signature bond projects compliments projects completed and provides the community with the best of both worlds.

The land for the Children’s Museum has been acquired. It will sit on the former Greyhound Lines, Inc. maintenance facility in downtown. The facility has been demolished to make way for the museum.

The Mexican American Cultural Center site has been identified. The center will be established at the Abraham Chavez Theater, which will be renovated.

Clarification on State Incentives

The City is looking at the area near the convention center to take advantage of state incentives. To be eligible for the incentives, the City would have to have a convention center hotel within the 1000 feet of the convention center property line. The convention hotel and the convention center would in essence create a convention center campus.

The state rebates would come from revenues from the businesses located within the convention center campus footprint.

The state incentives may be used toward various projects such as the MPC and or any additional public improvements that can enhance the convention center campus.

The MPC project would be considered an amenity that is in support of the convention center campus. The proximity of the MPC to the convention center would have to be at a location that is reasonable enough to show the State Comptroller’s office that it is an amenity in support of the Convention Center campus.

Clarification on Council’s Action

City Council’s recent action allows the City to continue moving forward with the exploration of identifying other feasible locations within the downtown area.

Op-Ed: City Caves on Plastic People, Ignores Real Residents

In roughly the same amount of time that it took the city to show, then tell everyone exactly how the new arena would be shoehorned into Downtown El Paso, the normally intransigent machinery that is local government caved to public pressure (after yet another self-inflicted wound) in record time and restored the much-beloved (dare I say ‘historic’) Nativity Scene to San Jacinto Plaza.

Which got me thinking, ‘this seems familiar, somehow…’  Information, but no real details.  ‘Very familiar, indeed…’

The city, as far back as November 4th, hinted at – but didn’t come completely clean – on the ‘cataclysmic’ changes to come to the beloved Christmas lights.

“We are excited to bring a brand new lighting display to historic downtown San Jacinto Plaza! This year we will celebrate the 101st anniversary of the park, and will celebrate the holidays with this new version of lighting,” said El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser. 

Vague, but encouraging…something to look forward to.

On December 3rd, within minutes of Mayor Leeser flipping the switch on the Christmas lights in the heart of the city, residents immediately put the spotlight on what wasn’t there. Photos were taken, as families wandered the newly renovated area, all in a search of the Baby Jesus and his parents.

It was all for naught, as the city had decided months earlier to modernize the light display, in the same vein as the revamp of the entire plaza, leaving the Holy Family out in the cold.

For many El Pasoans, this could not…would not…stand.

Outraged residents commented on countless Facebook posts and photo galleries; local TV stations jumped in, as did radio morning shows. “War on Christmas” was even uttered by some.  By Monday, December 5th the city realized the error of their lighted ways.

“The City of El Paso will install the nativity scene that’s been displayed at San Jacinto Plaza as part of a longtime tradition. The nativity scene will be visible as you drive on North Mesa.” Interim Managing Director Quality of Life, Dionne Mack.

And all was well with the world.

Except for a one-and-a-half block (or four block depending on the day/release) area of Downtown El Paso.  Where real people live, and have lived since the first saplings were planted at the original San Jacinto Plaza, nary a plastic Holy Family in sight.

Is this a “1970’s-style urban renewal project involving mass demolition”? No. This question seems to ask whether the City is wiping out an entire “old” neighborhood to replace it with something new. This project is being designed to fit in the smallest footprint possible, incorporate existing facilities, and create foot traffic to support local businesses.

Sure, there’s been outrage and protests, meetings and charrettes all chock full of impassioned prose and the murkiest legalese money can buy; but the decision stands:  We’re building there, and you are out.

“Everyone impacted will be relocated in accordance with the law,” City Attorney Sylvia Borunda Firth said. “It is absolutely our goal to negotiate in good faith with property owners to reach agreement on purchase prices. We will work diligently to develop a relocation plan that works for each situation, keeping those who want to remain downtown in the area.”

There is irony here.

Some of those residents, who can take a stroll and see the newly reinstalled Nativity Scene, are set to lose their homes right about the same time the lights will be pulled down in 2017.

Real people, set to lose their homes, staring at plastic people who have a place in downtown – thanks to a change of heart by the city.

Such outrage, and then quick action, to resolve a decision that a majority of the public deemed a mistake.  All over the physical representation of a displaced family, denied lodging at every turn, finally given only the barest shelter at their most vulnerable point in their lives.

The same could be said over the decision to put the arena in that place. Same outrage. Same posts. Same fury. Different outcome.

It would seem that our elected officials – and some of our fellow El Pasoans – are more concerned over plastic people and their shelter, rather than living human beings and their homes.

‘Tis the Season, I guess.

 Photo gallery courtesy Jon Eckberg

City Opens Office for Residents, Property Owners Impacted by Downtown Arena Site

The City of El Paso has opened an office in the Union Plaza District to provide impacted property owners and tenants with the opportunity to discuss the process for property acquisition and relocation assistance.

The site selection has many around the city upset, due to the area and the process the city undertook to inform the public.

Via a release, city officials say, “The City has identified a site just south of the Convention Center as the master planning area of the $180 million Multipurpose Cultural and Performing Arts Facility – one of three signature projects approved by voters as part of the 2012 bond program.”

Officials add, “The relocation program for residential and commercial property owners and their tenants will include plans that will be tailored to meet individual needs.”

According to the news release, some parcels outside the MPC footprint but within the master planning area may be necessary to provide access to the facility.  Officials go on to state that, “the determination as to whether a few extra parcels within the master planning area will be needed will be determined during the MPC’s design phase.”

The proposed footprint of the facility is located on one and a half blocks from South Santa Fe Street south to Paisano, west to the alleyway before Leon Street, up the alleyway to West Overland Avenue and east to South Santa Fe Street.

Additionally officials say, “The City will not acquire all properties within the master planning area. The goal is to impact the fewest number of properties possible for the MPC and its access points.”

The temporary office related to the development of the Multipurpose Cultural and Performing Arts Center (MPC) is located at 400 W. San Antonio and will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. To schedule an appointment with the MPC office, residents can call (915) 212-1631.

To learn more about this project, click on signature bond. To view our previous coverage of this issue, click HERE.

Community Meeting on Downtown Arena scheduled for Monday Night

The City of El Paso has scheduled a community meeting to provide helpful information about the land acquisition process, including relocation assistance, related to the development of the Multipurpose Cultural and Performing Arts Center (MPC).

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Nov. 14, at the vacant Fire Station, located at 331 S. Santa Fe Street.

The intent of the meeting is to empower impacted tenants and property owners with useful information and provide them with the opportunity to ask questions and share their concerns.

The City has identified a site immediately south of the Convention Center for the master planning area of the $180 million Multipurpose Cultural and Performing Arts Facility – one of three signature projects approved by voters as part of the 2012 bond program.

The City will not acquire all properties within the master planning area. The goal is to impact the fewest number of properties possible for the MPC and its access points. The actual footprint of the proposed facility is located on one and a half blocks from South Santa Fe Street south to Paisano, west to the alleyway before Leon Street, up the alleyway to West Overland Avenue and east to South Santa Fe Street.

Additional community meetings with tenants and property owners will be scheduled throughout the land acquisition process.

The site was one of three identified in a Site Evaluation Report developed by HKS, as part of an urban planning contract awarded to them by El Paso City Council in December 2013. In 2014, HKS launched a community outreach campaign to provide with the public with opportunities to offer input for the Site Evaluation Report. The outreach campaign included a public planning kick-off event followed by six public outreach workshops and community project briefings that were held between February 2014 to January 2015.

Learn more about this signature bond project or like the City of El Paso on Facebook on Twitter.

Op-Ed+Gallery: Self-Inflicted – How the City Went from Us to Them

The Lincoln School Neighborhood. The Chamizal Neighborhood. The Buena Vista Neighborhood. Downtown from Missouri Street to Prospect. Delta Street north to Pershing. Geronimo west to Campbell.  Santa Fe west to Schuster.

Streets on a map? Yes, but more. Thousands of homes, hundreds of businesses, tens of thousands of residents. Vibrant, living sections of El Paso – just as sure as any home or park or neighborhood that exist today; except for one common trait.

All Gone.

It is called progress. What was once a tree-lined neighborhood is now a concrete-lined, 8-lane highway.  A squat, 4-room adobe house overlooking cotton field is now a visitor’s center in the middle of a National Park.

That back yard tree-top view of Union Station and Mexico beyond? It’s an cement embankment now.  Those places exist only in the memories of those who lived there and – perhaps – a photo or two.

Progress. Time marches on.

In each of the instances mentioned, the fate of each building, each block , each tree and view, was determined by person or persons outside of El Paso. Them. Engineers from Austin. Lawyers from Dallas. Negotiators from Washington D.C. Each selling a similar vision and plan.  Progress.

Here comes the Interstate, we’ll need your homes.  Here comes the new Rio Grande, we’ll need your neighborhood.  And – of course – you will be paid a ‘fair amount’ for your property.  All will be well. Trust us.

Carpetbaggers with visions of multi-lane highways, overpasses and free-flowing traffic though the Pass of the North.  Of course, not always free-flowing.  But in each case, it was always us versus them.  We lived here, we rented here, we shopped here. And they didn’t.

They swooped in, took measurements and left appraisals. The next they had the checks and the lawyers. Just in case.  

We knew – even if we didn’t want to acknowledge it out loud – that some fellow residents were going to benefit big from the progress, and the rest, well…the rest would just find a way.  But we would keep a keen eye out for them…those outsiders wouldn’t come in and fool us again.

Courtesy: El Paso County Historical Society
Courtesy: El Paso County Historical Society

So  we busied ourselves with the marvels of strip malls and freeways, moving merrily along with the flow of time and progress, deluding ourselves that it was all worth it; Downtown receding in our mirrors, while we drove over the ghosts of neighborhoods now gone.

But still keeping an eye out for them.

And while we were busy stretching out and building across a seemingly vacant (and ‘useless’ desert) an entire quadrant of El Paso’s railroad hotels and row houses became a unique convention center and theater, as well as a city hall that left many cold.

At the same time, investors bought classic buildings like classic cars, only to let them fall into disrepair and condemnation, all the while saying “I’m preserving history and someday I’ll fix it, you’ll see.”

For some buildings, preservation meant transformation into parking lots for the convention center and city hall. For others, restoration ended up being flames and front-loaders, removing debris; leaving the survivors to stare at us through broken windows – unblinking and pleading: Is there nothing you can do? 

We watched the flames, then the dump trucks and finally the empty lots.  Still watching out for the next they, we cleaned up the mess.

Then baseball. Then the rush. Then the subdued hate for the old city hall…that ugly building…its gotta go. Now. A city’s elected officials moving quickly; progress. Trust us. We did.

And while we stared at the beauty in the form of an emerald diamond amidst grey concrete and black asphalt, we stopped looking for the next they.

And that’s when they evolved from us.

Emboldened by a public vote, and in a rush to once again declare progress, they emerged fully formed and educated by the ballpark’s rush.

The targeted footprint is bounded by West San Antonio Avenue, South Santa Fe Street, West Paisano Drive and Leon Street || Map courtesy Google
The targeted footprint is bounded by West San Antonio Avenue, South Santa Fe Street, West Paisano Drive and Leon Street || Map courtesy Google

They knew best, they would take the permission granted in bond form, and move to do something for us, but not with us.  Trust us. Progress.

Site Selection Teams. Appraisers. Lawyers. Planners.  PowerPoint Jockeys with Google Map Goodness. They were Us.

From a Thursday to a Tuesday it all became clear; four years begat four days and a familiar refrain…re-phrased:  Here comes the arena, we’ll need your homes. All will be well, all will be paid a fair amount…

Now another entire neighborhood – still vibrant and living – teeters on the abyss that is history. A push one way and only memories and photos remain.

With increasing numbers, the community – the us – is pushing back hard, all to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, visited upon all of us by the notorious, destructive them.

But this is more than a story of history, it is a lesson on how to avoid the mistakes of the past, while still declaring progress.

***

If our leaders truly want to revitalize downtown specifically – and the city as a whole – they need to expand their vista beyond the shadows of the original heart of the city.

For example, less than two miles from their location is an area of town dominated by recyclers, warehouses, auto scrappers, underused streets and a few empty lots.  The strip of homes along Ladrillo Place would continue to stand, unaffected.

Framed by Cotton Street on the west, by Paisano on the southside and Alameda  plus I-10 a couple blocks removed to the north, the location is prime for redevelopment and revitalization.  Access is not an issue, and neither is space.  This is but a quick example, drawn up in about 15 minutes, not 4 years.

14705871_10207474708405167_3806039815516708408_n
Map courtesy Google Earth

By revisiting the area where the arena can be placed (and still being true to the ballot language) the city can avoid the issue of being the notorious, destructive them, increase the footprint of what is considered to be Downtown, and open up a whole new corridor of opportunity for all of us – not just a select few.

 Photo gallery courtesy Jon Eckberg

City Launches Website, Social Media Campaign for New Arena Project

The City of El Paso is devoting a section of its website to provide an avenue for informing the public about the development of the arena project.

The $180 million Multipurpose Cultural and Performing Arts Center, or arena, approved by the voters as part of the 2012 Quality of Life Bonds will provide a venue for athletic, performance, cultural and recreational events in the heart of El Paso’s Downtown.

The process to begin negotiations to acquire land in downtown for the development of an indoor arena was approved by City Council earlier this week. Community meetings are being scheduled to provide impacted property owners and tenants with the opportunity to discuss the land acquisition process and the development of the arena.  The arena design process will involve additional public meetings.

footprintThe arena master planning area is bounded by West San Antonio Avenue, South Santa Fe Street, West Paisano Drive and Leon Street. The City will not acquire all properties within the master planning area – only the smallest area needed for the arena.

The City has identified a total of 22 properties for the arena footprint. Out of those parcels five are vacant or surface lots, seven are commercial, seven are residential and two are city owned.

The project design professionals will be asked to incorporate the city’s existing fire stations, the Police Area Representative station, and the Firefighters Memorial Park into the arena development.

Visit the arena project website To learn more about the development of the arena via social media search under the hashtag #EParena or like the City of El Paso on Facebook or follow @elpasotxgov on Twitter.

City to Negotiate Land Purchase from Select Downtown Property Owners for New Arena

Development of an indoor arena overwhelming approved by the voters as part of the 2012 Quality of Life Bonds continues to gain momentum.

The arena will provide a venue for athletic, performance, cultural and recreational events in the heart of El Paso’s Downtown.

After considering multiple sites, the City of El Paso has selected a two-block area immediately south of the Convention Center for the arena and the immediate area.  The targeted footprint is bounded by West San Antonio Avenue, South Santa Fe Street, West Paisano Drive and Leon Street.

In order to begin design and construction of the $180 million Multipurpose Cultural and Performing Arts Facility in 2017, the City must acquire the necessary property within the identified footprint.

“We are working closely with our consultants to identify the smallest area possible within the footprint for the project, in order to disrupt the fewest number of landowners,” City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said.

The property acquisition process will include asking Council to consider authorizing the City’s eminent domain authority.

“The power of eminent domain allows the City to begin a structured negotiation process with established protections for and disclosures to property owners,” City Attorney Sylvia Borunda Firth said.  “It is absolutely our goal to negotiate in good faith with property owners and reach agreement on the purchase price.  There are tax and other benefits available to land owners and tenants in the condemnation process, which we will help interested parties maximize. We want this to be a win-win.”

As part of the acquisition process, the City will implement a relocation program for residential and commercial tenants. “Our hope is that these small businesses and residents will want to stay downtown, but that will be their choice.  We will develop a relocation plan that works for each situation,” Firth said.

The land acquisition process is the second major milestone for the Arena project.  In August, the City selected International Facilities Group (IFG) to serve as the Owner’s Representative for the project.  The design procurement was published on October 4, 2016.

“The citizens of El Paso have told us they want this project and are excited to see it advance.  We now have an incredible team in place dedicated to keeping this signature project on schedule and look forward to exceeding the voters’ expectations with a world class arena in the heart of our beautiful Downtown,” Gonzalez said.

The targeted footprint is bounded by West San Antonio Avenue, South Santa Fe Street, West Paisano Drive and Leon Street || Map courtesy Google
The targeted footprint is bounded by West San Antonio Avenue, South Santa Fe Street, West Paisano Drive and Leon Street || Map courtesy Google
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