Historic neighborhood braces for change as downtown redevelopment moves forward

POSTED: 10:19 PM MDT Oct 03, 2012    UPDATED: 05:15 PM MST Jan 14, 2014 
EL PASO, Texas -

Some believe proposed downtown development, including a baseball park, an arena and private investment will bring revitalization to Sunset Heights, one of El Paso's oldest neighborhoods.

Others think the Downtown growth will price out individuals who currently live in the neighborhood that's walking distance from downtown.

"My husband and I both felt that Sunset Heights was the next neighborhood you were really going to start to see revitalized with the trolleys and the baseball park and the city working toward creating these amazing master plan projects with walkable neighborhoods and communities, we felt that this is the neighborhood where we wanted to be and have our children exposed to the amenities around them - the museums the libraries, the baseball stadium, UTEP," said Angelica Talavera.

She and her husband bought a home in Sunset in the summer knowing it would soon be one of the most coveted neighborhoods in the city.

Talavera, who along with her husband started a grassroots organization to advocate for the passage of the Quality of Life Bond and the baseball stadium Downtown, said she can't wait to walk to the ballpark with her family. "How exciting that'll be, to be able to walk there, especially for the opening game," she said.

The young mother said she's seen how diverse and walkable Sunset Heights is.

"There's a young resurgence of art and music in young El Pasoans in the 20-something age group, and then you have families with children. And then you have young professionals, single, living in the neighborhood; students going to UTEP living in the neighborhood and I think that's what gives it its character; it's that it's a mixture of different representations of El Paso. That's what makes a community and that's what you want to see," Talavera said.

A UTEP student who rents an apartment in Sunset Heights said he's concerned nearby Downtown development will increase property taxes and raise his rent.

"Humble students like me couldn't stay here that much longer because bigger people with bigger pockets would be here enjoying Sunset Heights," said Manuel Bolardi.

A young professional who walks from her home in Sunset Heights to her job Downtown said she wishes there would be more things to do downtown and wants some of the private development but is concerned on the toll it will bring to her neighborhood.

"I wouldn't want people to be pushed out by gentrification or by rents going up because of the ballpark. I'm kind of divided. I'd like nothing to change but everything to get better," said Amelia Furrow.

Talavera believes development will, in the long run, benefit all El Pasoans, including those living in Sunset Heights.

"I see kind of the big picture. You're hoping that with those quality of life initiatives, you're bringing in industry and you're bringing in industry that can afford to pay people livable wages. And so if you see that price increase in rent, you want to see that increase in livable wages, in being able to pay people competitive salaries and not losing those folks to Austin or San Antonio or Dallas. I can see that happening - property values certainly going up - which I think is always good for a neighborhood, however with the city constantly working to increase quality of life initiatives and industry - you're going to see a redistribution of the tax base," she said.