City Council expands Downtown TIRZ to include 105 commercial properties in South El Paso

EL PASO, Texas - Shop owners in the oldest shopping district in El Paso will now be eligible for more funds to renovate their building facades, though two city representatives said the move is unfair.

El Paso City Council on Tuesday added shops south of Paisano, closest to the Paso Del Norte Port of Entry to the Downtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, or TIRZ. The TIRZ is an economic development tool established by the City in 2006.

When property values in that zone go up, the additional revenue in property taxes is reinvested in that area, instead of going to the city's general fund where regular property taxes are allocated and used to pay for city services. The Downtown TIRZ money has been used for the Calvary Man Pocket Park downtown, commercial facade improvements and public improvements to the First Ave. Lofts.

Last year, about $350,000 of property taxes was reinvested into the TIRZ zone, according to city officials.     

"Any increase in revenue doesn't go into the general fund to pay for basic services, it actually goes to fix that specific area and it causes the rest of the city to pay the difference, it's fundamentally unfair," said City Rep. Eddie Holguin. He and City Rep. Carl Robinson voted against the move.

Other city representatives said public improvements helped foster private investment Downtown.

"What we're dealing with is a growing community. That's a good problem to have. Downtown is something we all share. You live in your neighborhood but downtown is something we all share and so it's important that we all come together and make it a vibrant area to live work and play," said City Rep. Cortney Niland.

According to the city, since 2006, total property values in the TIRZ have increased about $149 million. "I believe the numbers speak for themselves as far as what the TIRZ board has been able to accomplish," said T.J. Karam, a Downtown property owner who sits on the TIRZ board.

Central Business Administration officials said about 6,700 pedestrians every day walk through the new addition to the TIRZ, which encompasses 105 commercial properties.

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