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 email@example.com 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.
On December 1, 2016 at the Downtown Management District (DMD) Board of Directors approved the creation of additional grant incentives for downtown property and/or business owners who invest in their properties.
The new incentives consist of an amendment to the current Downtown Commercial Façade Grant Program as well as the addition of three new grant programs. All of the new grant incentives took effect on January 1, 2017 and will utilize existing Downtown Management District funds earmarked for the Downtown Commercial Façade Improvement Grant Program.
The amendment and three new incentive programs are intended to attract investment in the downtown and are available to DMD property and business owners.
Grant applications will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis until all available funding has been committed. The DMD currently has $120,000 available in grant funding.
Below is information on each of the new grant opportunities:
Streetcar & El Paso Street Incentive (Amendment to existing Façade Improvement Program)
The amendment to the existing Downtown Commercial Façade Improvement Program increases the grant match by providing two grant dollars for every one private investment dollar for property and business owners located along El Paso Street (from San Antonio to Sixth), and along the Streetcar Route.
All other grant requirements and considerations would still apply including the $25,000 maximum grant award.
Downtown Iconic Signage and Lighting Grant Program
This new program provides two grant dollars for every one private investment dollar for iconic and transformative signage and lighting projects. The program hopes to spur investment in lighting and iconic signage projects that cultivates the downtown identity.
The maximum grant available is $25,000.
Downtown Pedestrian Corridor Improvement Grant Program
This new program incentivizes improvements associated with the pedestrian environment and not associated with a building structure or façade. This translates to non-building related projects that enhance the physical environment – examples include but are not limited to landscaping, bike racks, outdoor cafés, or parklets.
The grant will provide one grant dollar for every private investment dollar. The maximum grant available is $10,000.
Downtown Mural Grant Program
Lastly, the new mural program incentivizes the creation and/or restoration of murals visible to the public. A review panel consisting of arts professionals will be established to review each proposed mural for quality and appropriateness prior to being reviewed by the Grant Committee and the DMD Board.
The grant will provide one grant dollar for every private investment dollar. The maximum grant available is $10,000.
To be eligible to apply for a DMD Grant, the applicant must:
a. Be a legal property owner. Business owners/tenants may apply with written property owner consent.
b. Actively pay property taxes on proposed project’s property maintaining a current account status.
c. Have no other debts in arrears to the City of El Paso to the best of their knowledge.
d. Obtain and provide proof of no current code enforcement actions pending against the property that would not be mitigated by the improvement project by visiting this website. Searches are available for all violations, i.e.; Building, Enforcement, Environmental, Animal, Fire, and Health.
Eligible applicants can obtain program guidelines and applications by going online or by calling the DMD office at 915-400-2294.
“The amount of activity and visitors to our downtown continues to grow,” says DMD Executive Director Joe Gudenrath. “This program provides a welcome smile to our visitors and helps ensure that their experience downtown is a positive one. I’m confident this program will have a positive impact on the downtown experience and will grow along with downtown redevelopment.”
The program places friendly, identifiable, knowledgeable and trained ambassadors in public spaces to greet visitors, answer questions, provide maps, and assist people as needed.
The Downtown Management District is looking for self-motivated, energetic, and friendly people willing to work outdoors and assist visitors to Downtown El Paso.
The positions provide part-time, seasonal employment between 4 to 20 hours a week (Fridays-Sundays) depending on the time of year. The ability to communicate in English and Spanish is required. Ambassadors will be paid $10 per hour and go through extensive training on everything Downtown El Paso has to offer.
The program is expected to begin in late November.
Those interested in being Downtown El Paso’s first Welcome Ambassadors can obtain an application by calling 915-400-2294 or stopping by the DMD Office at 201 E. Main Street, Suite 107.
The City of El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department (MCAD) is proud to announce that the Americans for the Arts recognized the Chroma Booster public art piece as one of the nation’s outstanding public arts projects for 2015.
The interactive sculpture was one of 38 outstanding public arts projects that were recognized through the Public Art Network’s Year in Review program.
Matthew Geller’s Chroma Booster is located at the new pedestrian plaza and links El Paso’s Downtown Arts District to the Union Plaza Entertainment District. The 55-foot tall painted steel fountain, which includes mist, water, and light, celebrates the controlled chaos of the industrial infrastructure that both surrounds the site and dots the Texas landscape.
User-controlled push-button valves at the base of the sculpture operate a foot-cooling water-spray nozzle, and three overhead showerheads allow visitors to douse themselves with a refreshing shower. At night, lights illuminate the stainless steel collars and the wafting clouds of mist.
“Chroma Booster is an excellent example of how Public Art can help transform a space. As one of the focal points on the Pedestrian Pathway, this piece serves as a landmark in the Downtown Arts District as well as providing a way for visitors to directly interact with the artwork,” said Public Art Program Manager Patricia Dalbin.
Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education, honors 38 outstanding public arts projects created in 2015 through the Public Art Network (PAN) Year in Review program, the only national program that specifically recognizes the most compelling public art.
The works were chosen from 260 entries across the country and recently recognized at Americans for the Arts’ 2016 Annual Convention in Boston.
The City of El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department is issuing a call for an artist or artist team to design and implement a temporary mural in the Downtown Arts District.
The project is open to artists living within a 150 mile radius of downtown El Paso. The deadline to apply is May 31, 2016. More information on the project and an application may be found on the Museums and Cultural Affairs Department website.
The temporary mural is intended to serve as a lively and inviting visual landmark for the Downtown Arts District with a theme that must promote the Downtown Arts District and focus on the arts and El Paso’s cultural heritage
The temporary mural will be located outdoors on W. Missouri Avenue, along the north facing façade of the El Paso Museum of History – visible to pedestrians
Mural Wall dimensions are 30 feet in length and 6 feet in height with a working surface area of 30’ in length by 5’10” in height; 175 square feet in total (selected artist is responsible for on-site measurements).
The vision of the El Paso Downtown Arts District is to stimulate the artistic and cultural life of the region by providing a lively space for arts and cultural events. The El Paso Downtown Arts District is comprised of 16 museums, presenting venues, green-spaces, festival footprints, cultural organizations, historic facilities and tourist amenities within a 19-block footprint.
Additionally, the Downtown Arts District oversees a competitive funding program called KickstART Downtown for recurring festivals and events downtown.
In spring 2009 I flew to El Paso, Texas, to interview for an entry-level professorship at the University of Texas. As an architectural historian, I was curious about the historic core of El Paso, whose origins could be traced back to the Spanish colonial period, and my hosts were more than happy to oblige.
During our walk around San Jacinto Plaza and along El Paso Street, I was amazed at the quality and beauty of the commercial architecture, most of which dates to the first decades of the 20th century when El Paso rapidly transformed from a rough and dusty frontier town into a major metropolitan center of industry and commerce.
I was struck, however, by the great number of abandoned and neglected buildings. Despite their incredible potential, it was apparent that these historic structures, which had been built of the finest materials and embellished with ornate cornices and moldings, could not survive in this condition for long before they would have to be demolished out of necessity.
We began a conversation about historic preservation and turned our attention to the municipal code that regulates the demolition and modification of buildings in El Paso’s local Downtown Historic District, which includes several properties on the National Register of Historic Places.
We quickly realized that the code—poorly written and riddled with loopholes and redundancies—offered little protection for even the city’s most significant architecture. By contrast, other Texas cities, like San Antonio and Galveston, had laws and strategies in place that encouraged the restoration of hundreds of downtown buildings, and their tourism was booming as a result.
As we pondered why El Paso had thus far failed to capitalize on its precious architectural assets, we were faced with a series of crises. In
April 2012 the First National Bank Building—a 131-year-old monument that had been on the National Register but had long been neglected by the real estate conglomerate that owned it—burned to the ground in a devastating fire.
Soon thereafter, a local real estate investment trust sought to acquire the beautiful and historic John T. Muir Building—designed by Henry C. Trost and erected between 1914 and 1916—with the aim of demolishing it. In spite of the vigorous efforts of the El Paso County Historical Commission, the city council ultimately overruled the Historic Landmark Commission (HLC) to authorize demolition without so much as asking what would replace the century-old building.
More than three years later, the current lot still stands empty, a gaping crater in our urban fabric.
Thankfully, the sudden destruction of so much historic building stock caused a public outcry, which enabled us to build support for architectural preservation. Our new clout was put to the test in March 2014, when the city’s fire marshal declared the historic 1902 Gateway Hotel an “imminent danger” and forcibly evacuated all 42 residents.
The El Paso County Historical Commission, Texas Trost Society, and television media showed up at the meeting that would decide the fate of the building. Our impassioned defense won the owners time to rehabilitate the structure. This was our first victory and the first time in modern memory that the El Paso public had been able to halt the demolition of a major historic building.
Only weeks later, the same conglomerate that had owned the First National Bank applied to raze the 1914 Union Bank & Trust Building next door, arguing that the structure had been damaged beyond repair despite the fact that its exterior had survived the fire almost completely intact.
Again the HLC rejected the demolition permit, and again the city council overruled it. The same firm quietly demolished the Gem Theatre, a beautiful three-story brick structure built circa 1885 that boasted a long and fascinating history but lay just outside the historic district.
The disappearance of the contiguous First National Bank Building, Union Bank and Trust Building, and Gem Theatre left behind a vacant lot that remains to this very day. The firm would go on to raze more than half a city block, leveling five buildings that had been erected between 1896 and 1910 and replacing them with yet another empty dirt lot.
A Plan for Downtown Renewal
Between April 2012 and June 2014, El Paso lost nine historic buildings in the heart of downtown, eight of which had been owned by a single company. In fall 2014, my Architectural Preservation Committee devised a plan to halt the destruction.
Following the lead of other major Texas cities, we proposed conducting a comprehensive survey of downtown El Paso that would include not only the large commercial buildings but also the Hispanic areas south of downtown, Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita, which had been neglected for decades and almost entirely excluded from preservation efforts.
Next, we planned to nominate downtown El Paso for the National Register of Historic Places, creating a new national historic district. Owners of “contributing properties” within the new district would not be subject to any new regulations unless they applied for historic federal and state credits, which could pay for up to 45 percent of renovation costs.
We had seen investors in other Texas cities with such districts restore historic properties with astounding results, so we felt that our pro-business plan would easily pass muster.
Confident that the surest path to success was through the city, we took our proposal to the historic preservation officer to determine the survey boundaries and apply for grant money to cover the projected $120,000 cost. She succeeded in securing $56,000 from the Texas Historical Commission and $15,000 from the Summerlee Foundation.
We met with the mayor, city manager, and city council and took our plan to the media, which enthusiastically publicized its potential economic benefits. We reached out to building owners and real estate companies and won the support of almost everyone we engaged. By the time our plan was ready to be presented to the city council, we were certain that we had broad support.
However, a small but influential group of investors opposed our plan and, with the assistance of the city manager, twice succeeded in removing it from the city council agenda. Eventually, in no small part because of media pressure, the city government felt compelled to bring the matter to a vote in July 2015.
After a marathon meeting that included both the mayor and city manager, the city council representative of downtown unexpectedly opposed our plan, claiming that it would subject building owners to onerous and expensive regulations. She vigorously urged the council to vote against it and successfully saw to its 6-2 defeat.
Success Through Plan B
Rather than abandon our effort, we immediately regrouped and activated our backup plan: El Paso County. Since there was no particular reason why the city had to be the initiator of the survey and historic district nomination, the county stepped up to the plate and expedited our project.
Within weeks we had not only unanimous support from the county commissioners but also full funding and even the endorsement of key developers. Our plan was brought before the County Commissioners Court on February 8, 2016.
We arranged for media coverage and used our vast social media network to marshal the support of thousands of El Pasoans. We had so much momentum that the county did not receive a single email or phone call in opposition.
When it was announced that our plan had passed unanimously, the room erupted into cheers and celebration. It had been a long and arduous journey, but at last we accomplished something meaningful and important: We succeeded in implementing a plan that firmly placed downtown El Paso on the path to cultural and economic revival.
Dr. Max Grossman is an assistant professor of Art History at University of Texas El Paso and is the vice-chair, of the El Paso County Historical Commission. Dr. Grossman’s column was originally written for the Preservation Leadership Forum Blog and is re-posted here with his permission.