On Tuesday, the Vacant Building Task Force issued a Notice of Emergency Action for the Fallas Discount store located at 301 East San Antonio, and evacuated the facility.
The action came after the City Fire Marshal found evidence of a recent fire and detected an odor consistent with an electrical fire in the building.
The building, which at one time was the downtown location for the locally-owned Popular Department Store, is home to a Fallas Discount Stores . Just last month, Fallas Paredes’ parent company National Stores Inc, filed for bankruptcy and announced plans to close several stores nationwide.
In addition to Fallas Paredes, Family Stores operates Fallas Discount Stores and Factory 2-U in 22 states and Puerto Rico.
Via a news release, fire officials stated, “the Fire Marshal deemed that the extent of the unsafe conditions of the building, as defined in the 2015 International Fire Code, present an ‘imminent danger’ – defined as a condition which would cause serious or life-threatening injury or death at any time – to the occupants of the building.”
According to the fire marshal, no residents lived in the building; a discount retail store was the only tenant in the building.
The building, located in the heart of downtown El Paso, was designed by famed Southwestern Architect Henry C. Trost and completed in 1917. The building housed the Popular Department store until closing in 1995.
As recently as June, published reports had the owners planning to start the rehabilitation of the century-old property, starting with the exterior, then renovating the upper floors as either residential loft apartments or office spaces.
According to the news release, the Building and Standards Commission had previously put the building on a 30, 60, and 90-day compliance schedule.
The violations were found during the 60-day check.