Staff Report January 10, 2019NewsComments Off on City Asking Residents for Feedback on Downtown Parking via Online Survey, Public Meetings
The City of El Paso invites the public to participate in an online survey and public meetings to help shape its comprehensive Downtown Parking Study.
“One of the most important goals of this study is to ensure that residents, employees, and visitors have easy and quick access to parking spaces making downtown shopping more attractive and livable,” City of El Paso International Bridges Department Director David Coronado, who oversees the City’s Parking Meter Division.
The study aims to enhance the City’s parking management strategies in an effort to balance the demand and supply of parking in the downtown area.
The study will address several elements including conducting a full inventory of all parking spaces in the downtown area both public and privately owned, on- and off-street.
The survey asks downtown residents, employees and visitors for opinions on parking conditions and accessibility, and provides the opportunity to give the City feedback on customer experience.
The survey along with the planned community meetings scheduled for late January aim to engage the public and key downtown stakeholders such as, the Downtown Management District and the Central Business Association.
At the community meetings the public will be able to provide input on the study’s preliminary findings and observations regarding parking management strategies in the downtown areas. Public meeting dates and locations are listed below.
Preservationists have announced a public forum on restoring Duranguito, as well as a discussion on the potential for the entire area.
The forum will be held Saturday, December 15, from 10am to 1230pm, in the El Paso Public Library’s Auditorium located at 501 North Oregon Street.
As part of the forum, J. P. Bryan will moderate a discussion on restoring Duranguito that will feature the executive directors of Preservation Texas, El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, and Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation; the President of the Texas Historical Foundation; and the Senior Field Director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Preservationist and Architectural Historian Max Grossman, Ph.D. says the importance of the forum cannot be overstated.
“Never before has such a distinguished group of national and state-level historic preservation experts visited El Paso for such an extraordinary event…we wish to emphasize that the public is welcome to attend and we sincerely hope that City, County and State leaders and administrators will join us as well. This is an unprecedented opportunity to discuss the future of our the historic building stock in our downtown.”
In addition to Bryan’s discussion, State Sen. José Rodríguez will present a virtual reconstruction of Duranguito that was created by Victor Hugo Soto, Diana Ramos, Andres Armendariz and Ingrid Leyva in consultation with the neighborhood residents.
Five presenters will discuss Duranguito’s economic and cultural potential as well as the opportunity for developing heritage tourism in downtown El Paso.
The forum will wrap up with Mr. Bryan’s concluding remarks and then questions from the audience.
“We value what our stakeholders and the general public thinks of the DMD and downtown. I’m pleased to see that the community continues to recognize the progress being made. It’s vital we don’t take this support for granted, and that we keep our finger on the pulse of the public so we can continue to improve our programs and aid in the prosperity of our downtown. This survey offers the kind of insightful criticism and positive feedback that is crucial to the course we set in the coming year.” said DMD Executive Director, Joe Gudenrath.
According to the data, a growing percentage of respondents favor the direction downtown is headed and have witnessed improvement over the last 12 months.
“The DMD thanks all who participated including our winner of the $100 gift certificate to Anson 11, Jimena Aguirre,” said Gudenrath, adding, “We will always keep the views of the public in mind as we continue our efforts to breathe more life into our downtown through our programs and advocacy.”
The online survey was distributed via local media, social media, flyers, direct mail and e-mail.
Regarding the Current Conditions of Downtown El Paso:
83% of respondents say Downtown is Progressing (up 8% from 2017)
76% of respondents say their Perception of Downtown has Improved over the last 12 months (up 10% from 2017)
Among Downtown Visitors, 57% came for Events (up 2% from 2017)
Of those events attracting people, Theater Events were the main driver (27%)
Regarding the future of downtown, the public’s top 3 priorities are:
Family Friendly Atmosphere and Businesses
Regarding the DMD’s Performance and Services:
92% of respondents gave the DMD a passing grade (“C” or better)
“A” = 20% (up 2%)
“B” = 53% (up 3%)
“C” = 19% (down 3%)
“D” = 2% (down 3%)
“F” = 2% (down 2%)
54-60% of respondents favored DMD expansion in 3 areas of service:
Advocacy and Planning (60%)
Economic Development & Grants (56%)
Marketing & Promotions (54%)
The fifteen (15) question online survey, made available in both English and Spanish, garnered 694 total respondents.
The DMD utilizes the unscientific, online survey to gauge the opinions of downtown property owners, business owners, employees, visitors and the general public on the present conditions of downtown, future needs, and the performance of the DMD itself.
The results of this survey were shared with the DMD Board at its August 23rd.
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Preservation Texas announced the addition of the Duranguito neighborhood in downtown El Paso to its Most Endangered Places list. at the 2018 Preservation Summit in Brownsville on Tuesday evening.
The neighborhood has been at the center of an intense political and legal debate about the future of a proposed new public building that would result in the loss of Duranguito’s historically-signiﬁcant architectural and archaeological resources which date back to the earliest days of settlement in the city.
Preservation Texas’s listing of Duranguito as one of the state’s most threatened historic places is intended to raise broader statewide awareness of the issues that local preservationists are facing in El Paso and build increased support for their eﬀorts. Saving Duranguito will ensure that the architectural and cultural fabric of downtown El Paso will retain its strength and authenticity.
“In the last few years, signiﬁcant private investment in the rehabilitation of El Paso’s downtown landmarks proves that historic preservation can be a major economic development strategy for El Paso,” said Preservation Texas’s executive director Evan Thompson. “Duranguito is a part of the cultural and architectural DNA of El Paso. Protection of its modest yet culturally signiﬁcant historic resources is essential to preserving the city’s diverse and authentic sense of place. Selectively saving the facades of certain buildings in the neighborhood is not preservation.”
Designation of Duranguito’s historic resources on the National Register of Historic Places would make federal and state tax credits available for up to 45% of the costs rehabilitating the neighborhood’s historic buildings. Local preservation ordinances and voluntary conservation easements can provide long-term legal protection for the buildings.
“Large-scale new developments should be encouraged in areas immediately adjacent to the historic core of the city, and recent land-use planning proposals have identiﬁed sites in which a large public building could be built that would allow El Paso to have a ﬁrst-class entertainment venue without requiring the demolition of Duranguito,” said Thompson.
Since 2004, over 150 sites have been named to Preservation Texas’s Most Endangered Places list, and only eight have been lost. Founded in 1985, Preservation Texas is a member-supported non-proﬁt historic preservation education and advocacy organization based in Austin with a statewide board of directors.
Numerous sites in El Paso have been named to the Most Endangered Places list in recent years, including the Albert Fall Mansion that was saved through the leadership of the City of El Paso.
Other sites named to the Most Endangered Places list this week are Ship-on-the-Desert, a 1940s-era house in Guadalupe Mountains National Park; the mid-19th century Neale House, perhaps the oldest frame house in Brownsville; and six threatened historic railroad depots in Central Texas.
Staff Report November 21, 2017Events, Local NewsComments Off on Texas Trost Society Presents from Boomtown to Metropolis: The Architecture of Downtown El Paso
The Texas Trost Society announced Monday the opening of a new, free exhibition in Downtown El Paso.
The Texas Trost Society will host “From Boomtown to Metropolis: The Architecture of Downtown El Paso,” a bilingual exhibition that explores the diverse architectural styles of downtown El Paso by analyzing 21 unique buildings and 8 architectural drawings, and comparing several of the buildings to iconic historical prototypes in other American cities and in Europe.
According to their release, the Texas Trost Society seeks to “educate the public about the significance and beauty of our architectural patrimony and to encourage preservation efforts in our community.”
Organizers will be hosting a ribbon cutting on December 2nd at 11:00 AM on the Corner of Oregon and Mills, with free tours and giveaways through 2:00 PM.
The City of El Paso has taken a huge step toward dealing with an iconic structure located in the heart of downtown: The American Furniture Company building.
On May 5, 2016, the El Paso Building and Standards Commission issued an order related to the American Furniture Building, located at 105 N. Oregon, and owned by Caples Land Company, LLC. The attached Building and Standards order included assessed civil penalties and a detailed listing of issues that need to be addressed.
Late last month, Judge Linda Chew of the 327th District Court, issued a Final Judgment that upheld the Building and Standards Commission order with a modification regarding the civil penalties.
The Court approved civil penalties in the amount of $1,242,486.15.
The City is now authorized to enforce the Final Judgment and file a lien in the real property records against Caples Land Company, LLC and William D. Abraham.
Additionally, the property must be vacated within 60 days of the date of the judgment and brought up to code within 90 days.
“The City has been working hard to revitalize Downtown and we are making tremendous strides. However, we still have some amazing structures that have not received any attention for years. The property owner has not complied with building codes or orders issued by the Building and Standards Commission, I appreciate the court issuing this order to bring it up to code,” said Mayor Dee Margo. “Maybe now we will see some improvements and bring this iconic building back to life.
The American Furniture Building is immediately adjacent to two signature historic redevelopment projects, the Paso Del Norte Hotel and the Plaza Hotel.
Via a news release, city officials added, “The City is committed to revitalizing downtown and will continue to explore all legal options to ensure compliance with this legal judgment.”
The Downtown Management District’s Inaugural Running of the Bulls 5k fun run is set to break loose on Saturday morning, October 21st in Downtown El Paso.
Participants will have access to a BBQ brunch following the run, and access to the United Bank Activity Zone. The fun run is presented by Amstel X Light.
In the United Bank Activity Zone participants will have access to entertainment sponsored by Sotoak Realty, including mechanical bulls, a bounce house, flamenco dancing, a photo booth, “bulls,” a DJ and the Amstel X Light Bar.
Awards will be presented to the top Male and Female in each age bracket: 15 & under, 16-21, 22-35, 36-45, 46-55, 56-65, 66 and over
Awards to the 3 fastest teams – must have a minimum of 5 people to compete and to be scored.
The Downtown Management District (DMD) conducted their third annual downtown survey during the entire month of July 2017, and the results are in.
The ten (10) question online survey, made available in both English and Spanish, garnered 1,123 total respondents – almost double than last year.
The online survey was distributed via local media, social media, flyers, direct mail and e-mail.
Regarding the Current Conditions of Downtown El Paso:
75% of respondents say Downtown is Progressing
66% of respondents say their Perception of Downtown has Improved over the last 12 months
Among Downtown Visitors, 55% came for Events
Of those events attracting people, Sporting Events were the main driver (38%)
Regarding the future of downtown, the public’s top 3 priorities are:
Family Friendly Atmosphere and Businesses
“We value what our stakeholders and the general public thinks of the DMD and the downtown, and I’m pleased to see that the community continues to recognize the progress being made. It’s vital we don’t take this support for granted, and that we keep our finger on the pulse of the public so we can continue to improve our programs and aid in the prosperity of our downtown. This survey offers the kind of insightful criticism and positive feedback that is crucial to the course we set in the coming year.” said DMD Executive Director, Joe Gudenrath.
The DMD utilizes the unscientific, online survey to gauge the opinions of downtown property owners, business owners, employees, visitors and the general public on the present conditions of the downtown, future needs, and the performance of the DMD itself.
“The DMD thanks all who participated including our winner of the $100 gift certificate to The Pizza Joint, Jose Montoya,” said Gudenrath, adding, “We will always keep the views of the public in mind as we continue our efforts to breathe more life into our downtown through our programs and advocacy.”
The City of El Paso invites the public to take a closer look at Downtown to see how strategic investments are preserving its historic buildings and spurring private development.
“The City of El Paso is being strategic about the projects we are pursuing for the downtown area,” Mayor Dee Margo said. “The current influx of downtown projects has created additional opportunities that the City can capitalize on to create new jobs and increase the quality of life throughout our community.”
Renovation of these six historic buildings represent approximately $191 million in private investment and a commitment of more than $61 million in total incentives.
More than $250 million in public and private funds have been invested since 2013 in the restoration of historic structures and the economic revitalization of Downtown. The City has been actively involved in the majority of the restoration projects through partnerships that provide tax incentives.
Historic renovation projects include the: Martin Building, Bassett Tower, Banner Building, Stanton Boutique Hotel, Paso Del Norte Hotel (formerly the Camino Real Hotel), and most recently the iconic Plaza Hotel. These six buildings are found on the National Register of Historic Places and five of them were designed by Henry C. Trost.
Overall, the City has incentivized a total 21 projects in the downtown area since 2013; a dozen that have been completed, six that are under construction, and three more that are under development. The total private investment in these projects is nearly $307 million and represent more than $87 million in local and state incentives.
The 12 completed development projects represent more than $35.9 million in private investment. A few of the larger projects include: the Hotel Indigo completed in 2016; the Martin Building and Annex completed in 2016; and the Campbell Apartments completed in 2017.
The renewed enthusiasm for reinvesting in downtown has resulted in restoration of the Anson Mills Building, using federal tax credits obtained by the developer. Three more proposed downtown development projects representing more than $154 million are in the works. They include: the WestStar Tower expected to be completed in 2020; the Plaza Hotel expected to be completed in 2020; and the Banner Building expected to be completed in 2021.
“Our partnership with the State of Texas and private developers is pivotal to the success of our downtown revitalization and our ability to deliver on our goal to create an environment conducive to strong sustainable economic development,” City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said. “The partnerships are the reason the majority of these historic preservation projects are under way.”
The City will continue its concentrated efforts to work with partners to increase the appeal of Downtown El Paso to people of all ages.
“Downtown is a place where we want people to live, work, play and visit. Our goal is to make Downtown El Paso a major focal point of the city while at the same time preserving our history and promoting our culture,” Cary Westin, City of El Paso Deputy City Manager, said.
The Downtown Management District and five locally owned downtown restaurants are teaming up to provide El Pasoans an exclusive dining opportunity.
“Downtown El Paso restaurants showcase a diverse array of tastes and talents,” said DMD Executive Director Joe Gudenrath. “The Downtown El Paso Eat Authentico Restaurant Crawl will highlight our downtown, showcase the great talents of local chefs and provide an amazing experience for participants.”
The Downtown Eat Authentico Restaurant Crawl will provide participants with a five-course meal served at five different downtown restaurants (one course per restaurant).
The event will take place on September 27th, 28th and 29th. Groups of 10 will start their crawl at 6pm and 7pm on all three nights, with an additional crawl staring at 8pm on Friday, September 29th.
The Eat Authentico Restaurant Crawl is a ticketed event and only 70 tickets over the three days are available. Each crawl will be limited to 10 people per time period.
Tickets for the Wednesday and Thursday crawls are $65 with tickets to the Friday crawls priced at $70. Tickets are available for purchase by calling 915-400-2294.
The Eat Authentico Restaurant Crawl will feature five locally owned restaurants throughout the downtown. The menu and walking tour will include the following:
Item & Description
Roasted Lamb Tacos – roasted lamb with cucumber sauce, crispy romaine, marinated onion and chile de arbol salsa.
Delight, 502 N. Oregon
Bourdain – consists of nishi shoyu broth, pork belly, roasted corn, soft boiled egg and scallions.
Nishi Ramen, 504 W. San Antonio
Coco Loko – a young Thai coconut carved and stuffed with shrimp and vegetables seasoned with black sauces and clamato juice, surrounded by papas lokas and a refreshing iced coconut water to drink.
Coco Loko, 400 S. Oregon Street
Roasted Duck – pan seared roasted duck with wild mushrooms and red wine sauce.
WestStar Tower, LLC announced today it will build the WestStar Tower, a new multi-tenant, multi-level “Class A” office building in Downtown El Paso.
This would be the first high-rise office building to be built in Downtown El Paso in almost forty years.
The building will consist of fourteen floors and include eight levels for office space, five levels of parking (open to public), and ground floor retail space. The complex will also feature park-like green space available for use by the public.
The new commercial building will be named WestStar Tower. WestStar Bank (“WestStar”) will relocate its main bank and combined operations from 500 N. Mesa Street to the new office building which will serve as the corporate headquarters for WestStar.
WestStar will occupy three floors of the building and will also have a commercial bank operation on the ground floor.
WestStar will bring an additional 35 employees to Downtown El Paso. In total, WestStar Bank and its affiliates will have approximately 180 employees working in the new location at 601 North Mesa.
Frederick “Rick” Francis, Chairman and CEO of WestStar Bank said, “We are excited to be closer to the start of the construction phase of a state-of-the-art class “A” office building in Downtown El Paso. WestStar Bank has always had a presence downtown and we are proud to continue that legacy and put our name on this project.”
WestStar Tower will be constructed on property purchased by Hunt Companies in 2014. At the time, the land purchase was part of an exploratory effort by Hunt to potentially relocate its offices downtown, as well as identifying a suitable site for other office and retail use. Since then, Hunt has had numerous discussions with the City of El Paso regarding the building’s usage, public amenities, and new-construction incentives, and received approval by City Council on September 19.
WestStar Tower, LLC is still in discussions with the County of El Paso, and hopes to receive the County’s approval soon.
“This is fantastic news. The energy and excitement surrounding this new high-rise development in Downtown El Paso is a welcomed addition to our collective community efforts to continue to make the center of our city an inviting and vibrant place,” Mayor Dee Margo said.
“We are very pleased that the City has given their full support to this unique downtown project,” said Josh Hunt, Executive Vice President of Hunt Companies. “We hope to wrap up our discussions with the County in the very near future and receive their approval as well.”
Hunt Companies will move its headquarters from Mesa Street on the city’s west side to the new facility in Downtown El Paso, bringing approximately 175 employees to the Downtown area. The office building will serve as the corporate headquarters for Hunt, occupying three floors of the building.
The Hunt Family Foundation will also be located in the building.
“We are proud to lead this project as part of our efforts to develop and revitalize Downtown El Paso. Our hope is that the new WestStar Tower will serve as a catalyst for continued growth in the heart of our city,” said Hunt. He added, “It is our intent to create a premier downtown location.”
Plans call for WestStar Tower to be open in late 2019 or early 2020.
“The City of El Paso is committed to creating an environment that is conducive to strong, sustainable economic development. Our commitment to economic development is resonating with the private sector and producing results. A new tower in our Downtown is the type of catalyst that will help spur continued economic growth to provide El Paso with more choices to live, work and play,” City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said.
The latest piece of El Paso’s downtown renaissance is here. Those looking to become downtown dwellers now have the opportunity to live near the hustle and bustle of downtown El Paso with the opening of the 501.
A project led by Joe Soto and his family, these brand new apartments are a great opportunity to join the downtown living movement.
“Downtown El Paso is chocked full of small businesses, cultural amenities, restaurants, bars and coffee shops. You can walk to them from the 501, you’ll soon be able to hop on the streetcar nearby, and residents have easy access to Interstate 10 and the Border Highway,” Soto said.
“Our family has been part of downtown El Paso for three generations, so having the opportunity to showcase what we love about Downtown while helping to build an exciting future for Downtown is doubly exciting. We want folks to come live at the 501 and be part of the renaissance with us.”
The 501 units have gorgeous downtown views and come with washers and dryers, refrigerated air, granite countertops, upscale appliances, 9ft ceilings, energy efficient lighting and more. Commercial spaces are available for lease on the first floor.
This grand opening event will provide the public with the opportunity to explore the property, enjoy great music, free refreshments door prizes and activities, and get a taste of what living downtown has to offer.
Local charity Siguiendo los Pasos de Jesus, who rebuilds homes and supports education in Juarez colonias, will have a free ice cream bar at the event.
The public is invited to a grand opening celebration at 5:30p.m. on Thursday, August 17, 2017, at 501 S. Campbell Street.
Visitors will be invited to tour the building, enjoy some food truck goods and get the feel for downtown living while they’re there. The first 50 guests will receive a small gift.
Staff Report August 3, 2017NewsComments Off on Video+Story: DMD Announces ‘REEL Authentico’ Video Contest Winners
The Downtown Management District (DMD) has announced the winner of their ‘REEL Authentico’ video contest.
Earlier this summer, DMD invited local filmmakers to produce a video capturing the spirit of ‘Authentico’ in Downtown El Paso (DTEP) in a contest.
The winner will not only be profiled in an INSIDER feature article, they will also have their video distributed on the official Downtown El Paso Youtube channel, and be presented at the Plaza Classic Film Festival (August 6, 2017 @ 2:30pm in the Foundation Room 333 N. Oregon)
Additionally, first, second and third places will be awarded gift cards to Downtown El Paso businesses of their choice.
Contestants were asked to highlight an area, spotlight people, a local scene, or provide any narrative that shows the authenticity of downtown, while keeping it positive.
At the end of the day, judges scored this video highest for it’s careful scripting and production quality. Orlando Cordova represented Laughterhours Comedy and submitted this video and earned the number one spot!
Daniel Rios-Lopera created a kinetic and upbeat tour of Downtown El Paso with his video submission that won him 2nd place!
Ryan Ortegon left out a music track in favor of a more organic experience, letting the sounds of the Cobbler’s equipment and the bustling downtown noises provide the soundtrack for this intimate conversation with the Cobbler. As Authentico as they come, this video earned third place!
The Downtown Management District (DMD) is looking for a few good local filmmakers.
The REEL AUTHENTICO Video Contest is asking entrants to produce a video capturing the spirit of ‘Authentico’ in DTEP and enter the contest for a chance to be featured in an INSIDER feature article, have their video distributed on the official Downtown El Paso Youtube channel, and presented at the Plaza Classic Film Festival.
Additionally, first, second and third prizes will be awarded gift cards to Downtown El Paso businesses of their choice.
Contestants can highlight an area, spotlight people, a local scene, or provide any narrative that shows the authenticity of downtown, while keeping it positive
Please keep all submitted videos under 2 minutes long (winners will be asked for an edit under 00:59 seconds for distribution on Instagram). Photos can be taken with any video camera and submitted in MP4 format – cell phones or professional cameras permitted.
One video per videography team allowed for submission. No profanity. No controversial or political content. All videos will be judged for 3 elements:
– (Content) Expressing how DTEP is AUTHENTICO in a positive fashion
To enter the Reel Authentico Video Contest: please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org a Dropbox link to download your video, or deliver a USB with video file directly to DMD offices at 201 E. Main, Ste. 107.
Thursday was a bad day for me. I was ready to give up on everything. Had a meeting that didn’t go as planed, lost out on a photography job I was working on.
I was ready to toss in the towel.
To try to cheer myself up, I starting walking around, and taking pictures of anything that caught my interest in downtown. That was when I found new inspiration, and hope for the younger generation.
I had just taken a photo of the KRESS sign, on Mesa Street, when I saw this kid. He looked to be thirteen or fourteen years old. He’s skinny as a beanpole, running faster and harder than I have run in a long time.
It’s not often – if ever – you see a kid running around downtown El Paso wearing boxing gloves, but here he was. Who was he? What was he doing? I just had to find out.
I began walking back towards Texas Street, and that is where I noticed another guy standing outside of a gym, Backstreet Brawlers, wearing the type of gloves a boxer would hit. I see the kid come around the corner, from Stanton Street.
He comes up to this guy, and they start to spar. Right there, in front of anyone walking, or driving by, they are sparing. After a few minutes, the kid takes off running again.
The kid is Fernando. He is training at Borderland Brawlers Boxing Club to build up confidence, stamina, and to be able to defend himself if the need ever arises. After watching Fernando for about thirty minutes, I can tell he is committed to what he is doing; and after visiting Borderland Brawlers, he’s not the only one.
I met with the the trainer, Gerardo Hernandez, who also owns Borderland Brawlers. Gerardo introduced me to some of the most committed individuals I have ever met in my life. They range in age from fourteen to twenty-eight years old. They come from diverse backgrounds, but are all committed to some of the same ideas, and principles: to being the best at whatever they do and helping others along the way.
Gerardo says that everyone who comes to his gym are like family to him, and each other. They are that close. They workout together, train together, sweat together. After just a few minutes of conversation, you can tell he really cares about those he works with.
Before opening the gym, Gerardo worked for the City of El Paso Animal Regulation Department and the Marriott Hotel. While the gym opened in September 11, 2008, he started training people in 2004.
At first, the gym was not officially open to the public. That changed in 2013.
Gerardo went into boxing, first, for himself. He wanted to lose weight. Being a good father, he took his sons with him. In the end, he continued to let his sons box. “It became an expensive habit,” he says. Opening a gym was a logical step to continue a hobby that has become his passion.
One group he works with and trains are kids. This training builds their confidence, their stamina, and allows for them to defend themselves.
Gerardo’s message to the youth of our city is, “don’t be a victim, and don’t bully.” But there are others in the gym, with more advice and experience to learn from. John Pitts IV is another inspiration; he follows Gerardo’s advice with his own: “be the better person, but don’t be stupid.”
Learning his story, and talking to some of the youth in the gym, they look up to him – with good reason.
Pitts is twenty-eight years old, a veteran of the United States Army, and owns two businesses in town. Boxing, he says, is the next chapter in his life. A very busy life that stretches from Europe to the Midwest to El Paso. A life where being the best will take you places, and being the best is what Pitts is good at.
He hails Germany, his mother is German and his father was served in the United States military, while stationed there. Pitts has always liked the nature of boxing and growing up, he had his mother as an example. She used to be a professional boxer herself, in Killeen, Texas.
Pitts also played football for Ohio State as a wide receiver and a defensive end in 1988; he has worked in the oil fields, and was in charge of transportation in the First Cav. Now, he is an engineer – and a dispenser of sage advice.
“Keep your head up, there is a Higher Power…keep one foot in front of the other, keep marching forward and you will get to where you want to be,” Pitts says before returning to his workout.
Back to Fernando. Several times a month this kid is downtown, working out at the gym, and he is not the only youngster there.
Enrique Munoz is fourteen years old. Already, at such a young age, he holds a black belt in Tae Kuon Do. He has his mind set on being a professional boxer. Not just the Golden Gloves, but all the way to the top.
Enrique has only been at Borderland Brawlers Boxing Club for one month. Yet, the hour I spent watching him go through his routine with Gerardo, he already seems like a seasoned professional working to stay on top of his game before his next fight.
No matter how old you are, you are subjected to a very strict regimen at the gym. You work with the body bag and punching bag. They work on their stamina, and footwork. In a way, they work out harder than I ever have in my whole life.
No matter how hard the routine, they don’t give up.
They don’t quit.
Part of the workout Enrique, John, and others were doing was sparing with Gerardo for three minutes. Then, when a loud beep sounded, they would take off, and run up and down sets of stairs while the next person stepped in to train with Gerardo. In between the stairs and throwing punches, they were working on body bags, doing push-ups, or jumping rope.
All with a drive and desire you don’t see very often.
Then there is Juan Gloria. He is fourteen years old from Jefferson High School. For the past eight months he has been training at Borderland Brawlers, and is set to have his next sparring match this coming week.
Juan is pursuing a future in boxing because of his father. His dad was not a boxer, but loves the sport, and he wants to be part of this for his father. Juans goal, what he wants out of boxing is to help others, help them reach their goals, and be a professional. He already has that down.
While I was at the gym, Juan was helping others while he was doing his workout. In fact, they all were helping each other, giving life to what Gerardo said, that they all become family to each other.
And they are not the only ones chasing dreams. There is Carlos Alverez, another fourteen year old that trains with Gerardo. There is also Arnold Herrera Jr., Dario Ferman, Braulio Ayala.
Braulio, by the way, has already won his first fight in a knockout.
“Forever forward,” is heard throughout the gym. Going forever forward, you will reach your goals. And each of these people will reach their goals.
Watching them all, seeing the determination they have, the desire to excel, the passion they bring to the sport and their training is amazing. To know that there are individuals, who are so young, and so committed to what they do, it gives one hope for the future direction of our communities, our city and our country.
“Forever forward, indeed.”
Author/Photographer : Steven Cottingham – Special to the El Paso Herald-Post