El Paso

City Council: Changes to roadside memorials, Blue Flame building renovations


On Tuesday, the El Paso City Council approved resolutions of support for seven Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) developments, including the now vacant Blue Flame building.

Franklin Mountain Management and the Housing Authority of the City of El Paso have agreed to partner up in order to renovate the Blue Flame building.

The $36 million project will consist of a mix of low-income apartments, market-rate apartments and retail space said William Kell of Franklin Management.

The 17-story building was once the home of El Paso Natural Gas. It was built in the early 1950s.

Kell said the high-rise building will be completely gutted out inside, including the plumbing, electrical, and elevators. The exterior will remain untouched for the most part because it's still said to be in good condition.

The only thing that will change on the outside is the blue flame. Kell said, "we will reactivate that and put it back into service hooked up to the weather conditions so people can look out the window and see it kind of like they did in the old days."

Kell added that about 80 percent of the units will be affordable units, the other 20 percent will be market rate units. The first floor will also include about 7,000 square feet in retail space, including a bicycle room for tenants to lock up their bicycles.

The tax credits will have to be approved by the state of Texas before any construction can begin. Kell said the application will be submitted in March, and he will not find out if it was awarded until July. Until then can the formal process to begin construction begin.

Kell said the building can be expected to be finished around mid-2018, maybe later.

The Blue Flame redevelopment project, and many others, will now continue in the process in which the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) will evaluate each development for tax credit awards

  • Ardelle (185 affordable units, Housing Authority of the City of El Paso
  • Blue Flame Apartments (165 affordable unit, Housing Authority of the City of El Paso
  • Medano Heights (185 affordable units), Housing Authority of the City of El Paso
  • Pellicano Place (185 affordable units), Housing Authority of the City of El Paso
  • Alameda Palms (116 affordable units), Tropicana
  • Ridgestone Estates (146 affordable units), Investment Builders
  • Villas at Sandstone (150 affordable units), Investment Builders


The Low Income Housing Tax Credit program is the country's most extensive affordable housing program. The LIHTC program gives State and local LIHTC-allocating agencies the budget authority to issue tax credits for the acquisition, rehabilitation, or new construction of rental housing targeted to lower-income households. 

At the State level, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) changed the rules and laws several years ago to allow municipalities to provide Resolutions of Support or Resolutions of No Objection for local LIHTC proposals. 

Developers, including private developers and the Housing Authority of the City of El Paso, now submit requests for Resolutions of Support to the City of El Paso.



The El Paso City Council approved policy changes regarding roadside memorials Tuesday.

The Streets and Maintenence department tried bringing forth policy changes last year, but were denied and told to come back with revisions.

Changes proposed Tuesday included making the annual fee of $124 for a "Please Drive Safely" sign now a one-time fee. The only time the applicant will have to pay that fee again is if the sign is in disrepair and has to be replaced. 

The second proposed revision is that if a resident buys the blue sign, for an additional $50 fee, residents can put additional memorial objects within a 4x4 square foot area around the sign. Objects cannout obstruct views of traffic, and ghost bikes would not be allowed.

Currently, the policy allows for an official "Please Drive Safely" sign for a cost of $124 per year. There is a zero tolerance for impromptu memorials, including flowers and crosses, although the city does not enforce the rule.

City representative Lily Limon said her concern with the revisions if that if someone called the city and complained about an impromptu memorial, it would be removed. She added that memorials can serve an important part of the healing process for many families.

The Streets and Maintenence department said it would reach out to families first before removing the memorial.

Council approved the policy changes 5 to 2, with Rep. Lily Limon and Rep. Claudia Ordaz voting against it.



The El Paso City Council approved the purchase of 28 police vehicles from Casa Ford Tuesday, for a total of $1,717,551.92. 

The award is to include an option to purchase additional quantities at the same unit price for the amount of $1,717,551.92 (28 additional units) for a total award of $3,435,103.84. 

The vehicles are anticipated to be in use within the next 120 days. 

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