El Paso

Billy Abraham among those who own property in Downtown arena footprint


EL PASO, Texas -  

Businessman Billy Abraham, released from prison Monday after serving a sentence for running over a man and failing to render aid, is among those who own property in the Downtown arena footprint, Jose Carlos Villalva, the city's real estate manager, said.

City Council Tuesday received update on the process to acquire properties and relocate people living in the footprint of the $180 million Multipurpose Cultural and Performing Arts Center (MPC).

The City is still waiting to hear back from seven property owners, including Abraham, Villalva said.

Mayor Oscar Leeser said the number represents a majority of the property owners.

"I think it's important we give the real number. Seven didn't sound like a lot, but we only had about ten, besides the balloon. Adding the balloon, we haven't heard from the majority of them", Leeser said.

Thje city plans to acquire a two block area south of the Downtown Convention Center for the voter-approved arena.

"Right now, we have contacted all the property owners," Villalva said, "and we're moving forward with getting the appraisals and doing the phase one assessments on all the properties."

Villalva said independent appraisers will consider what the fair value is for residents giving up where they live for the project.

The "targeted footprint" for the arena would be bound by West San Antonio Avenue, South Santa Fe Street, West Paisano Street, and Leon Street. The city must first acquire the property before construction begins.

Residents and historical preservation advocates oppose the move, citing the neighborhood's historical buildings and cultural significance.

A few of those against the location of the downtown arena are at Tuesday's city council meeting holding up signs that read "defend the barrio" and "move the arena."

The City plans to set up a mobile site Wednesday at 400 West San Antonio, where it plans to reach out to business owners and people living in the arena footprint. Villalva will be available to speak with residents from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

"The appraisal will be based on best and highest use of each property, and as such, will arrive at the fair market value," Villalva said. "Now this is done by a third party, so it's up to them. The city has no input on what the best and highest use of each property is."

Villalva said appraisers usually take 30 to 45 days to appraise properties like those in the footprint, Villalva said.

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