El Paso

City hires archeological consultants to survey Duranguito area

EL PASO, Texas - The city has contracted Houston-based Moore Archeological Consulting to conduct an archeological and historical review of the site. The review is required by the Texas Antiquities Code.

The Texas Antiquities Code describes guidelines for the identification, treatment and designation of sites with historic and archeological resources.

Laura Foster, the chief architect for the city's Capital Improvement Department, said a team is in the process of putting together a research design plan.

"The purpose of the review is to identify any archeological resources, past settlements all the way to to prehistoric settlements. It's to identify and treat anything that might be under the current development, which a hundred-year-old development. Which you know in our terms is actually pretty new,"  said Foster.

The Archeological Consulting firm will recommend the best locations in the arena footprint to explore during the archeological investigation. The Texas Historic Commission would then have to approve those locations. 

The firm would also make recommendations on how to handle and treat any resources that are discovered.

Duranguito advocate Max Grossman has said it's possible history is buried underneath the neighborhood, potentially belonging to Juan Maria Ponce De Leon, a prominent El Paso rancher.

"The original ranch of 1827, the origins of what would become El Paso and the 1998 survey that J.P just alluded to cites 5 high probable archeological sights under the ground there including Ponce's ranch," Grossman said. 

"They will be doing ground penetrating radar over the streets. in addition to some trenches. They will first of all be collecting all the data that has accumulated over the past 20 years regarding that entire area," said Foster.

Foster said it is very typical to hire an archeological consulting firm to take a look at the history of a project site.

"So in that immediate area (Duranguito district), the city has conducted three archeological investigations over the past 20 years," said Foster.

The investigations were done before the building of the Union Plaza Transfer Center and the fire station. A review was also completed before the Union Plaza street work began.

The information gathering has already started, but it's not clear yet when the digging could begin.

Lawsuits have slowed the arena project, but city officials are still moving forward.

"We still have the site and we still have a project that we are allowed to undertake by court order right now without a sports tenant.  So we are starting to think about how we will undertake that project," said Foster.

City officials said they plan to share information with the public on what, if anything, is discovered below the Duranguito district.

"There may be variables, and that will affect how we design. So, it may affect how the building is designed. It may affect how the building sits on the ground, what part of the site it occupies. And that's just something we can't know until we get in there," said Foster.

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