HLC denies demolition of Union Bank and Trust Co. building

The fate of another historic may have been decided Monday night.

Ashlie Rodriguez, Reporter
POSTED: 10:43 PM MST Nov 19, 2012    UPDATED: 12:38 PM MDT Mar 14, 2014 
EL PASO, Texas -

The fate of another historic may have been decided Monday night. The demolition of Union Bank and Trust building on San Antonio Avenue is denied. But this win may not last long.

In a 4-3 decision, the city's Historic Landmark Commission voted for the denial to demolish the building, based mainly on what they say was a poor presentation by River Oaks Properties.

"There weren't numbers there, looking at a replacement cost versus a rehab cost," said newly elected Chairman David Berchelmann.

The City Council unanimously voted to overturn the commission's decision to keep the historic John T. Muir building just a matter of days ago. The demolition of another Trost icon is too much, too fast.

"This is one of his buildings that we must save," said architect and resident
Morris Brown.

River Oaks Properties representatives told the commission the fire from the First National Bank building in April has left Trost's Union Bank unsafe, even to rehabilitate. In a letter, HNK Engineers wrote the walls could collapse, resulting in personal injuries and even the loss of human life.

"It's very difficult looking at that property," Berchelmann said. "You want to try and preserve the history and the culture of Downtown. It's a lot to consider. If you look at the commission it was split."

During the meeting, commissioners scratched the heads looking for way to rehabilitate the building before having to remove it: River Oaks could keep the façade, a move they maintain is unsafe and expensive, or the city could step up and buy older buildings off developers who can't find any economic incentive to remodel. But regardless, River Oak can very easily appeal to city council for demolition, and another Trost token could bite the dust.

"City Council will have to decide," Berchelmann said

Berchelmann replaces Jim Booher, who was recently termed out.