EL PASO, Texas - A hearing requesting a temporary stop to demolitions in the Duranguito neighborhood will be held Monday. ABC-7 has obtained court documents that shed light on the conversations between the city and the Texas Historical Commission.
Historian Max Grossman claims the city violated the Texas Antiquities Code because it did not notify the commission of its plans to build the arena. Texas law says the agency has to be notified of construction by a public entity that would cause "ground-disturbing activity on public land and work affecting publicly owned historic buildings."
The code also stipulates any demolition within a city exceeding five acres would require a proper archaeological survey. In its response filed in court, the city claims it's nowhere near being ready to break ground on any of its properties stating they haven't acquired all of the properties within the footprint area or selected or hired the necessary design and environmental consultants, architects, construction professionals or acquired the services of any other professionals whose services are needed to move forward with the construction project."
We also obtained a copy of a letter from the Texas Historical Commission sent on August 8th to Mayor Dee Margo.The commission reminds the city it is required to provide notice before breaking ground on the project stating, "We realize that the subject property has not been acquired by the city and that the facility has not been designed yet making evaluation of impacts difficult and speculative."
On September 5th, the city responded stating, "We are aware of our obligations under the antiquities code and will commence the necessary dialogue with the THC, and allow sufficient time to undertake the necessary procedures to preserve and protect items of historical significance and to mitigate the effects of our MPC project."
The city also assured the Texas Historical Commission it wants to incorporate two structures into the design of the Multipurpose Performance Center, including the 1930 Trost and Trost fire station at the corner of Paisano and Santa Fe Street and the former brothel known as "The Mansion" on Overland Avenue.
In its response, the city argues its the private property owners who filed for the demolition permits. The city will not acquire the properties until demolition is complete. Grossman fears by then it will be too late to save other properties in the footprint historians say should be saved. Even then, Grossman says El Paso's first ranch is underneath the neighborhood and the area should be excavated before construction begins.