El Paso

Downtown arena design will take historic preservation into account

EL PASO, Texas - El Paso City Council Tuesday approves directing the City Manager to consider urban design and historic preservation when designing the Downtown arena.

The action by the city does not change the arena's footprint, rather directs the city manager and architect of the voter-approved $180 million multi-purpose cultural and performing arts facility to consider and incorporate urban design and historic preservation during the design process.

Rep. Peter Svarzbein, who put the item on the agenda, favors a design that includes open space and mixed use, including nearby housing.

The targeted footprint for the arena encompasses two city properties, seven businesses and seven residential properties, housing around 50 people. The location is about two blocks south of the Downtown Convention Center.

"Right now, we have contacted all the property owners," said Jose Carlos Villalva, the city's real estate manager, "We're moving forward with getting the appraisals and doing the phase one assessments on all the properties."

Residents have voiced their concerns after the City of El Paso revealed plans to acquire the properties for the arena. Monday, Sen. Jose Rodriguez and local leaders participated in a walking tour and informational forum regarding the history and residents affected by the proposed Downtown arena.

"I believe it is a great injustice to tear this neighborhood down, and uproot it's people, and destroy its history," Historian David Romo said, "This is the oldest neighborhood in El Paso and it has incredible cultural worth and to me I really believe it is the arena that should be moved. Not the people."

The city has set up a mobile site at 400 W. San Antonio where city staff can reach out to business owners and residents living within the proposed arena footprint. The site will be open from 8 am. to 6 pm. Wednesday and Thursday.

The city wants to acquire 21 properties, but staff members report they are having a difficult time reaching the owners of seven of them.

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