El Paso

Downtown Management District: historical survey should not limit rights of property owners

Downtown Management District on...

EL PASO, Texas - The results of an El Paso County historical survey of the city's downtown area have been turned over to commissioners.

The historical preservation firm Hardy-Heck-Moore of Austin looked at approximately 1,700 properties in the survey area.  The area stretches as far north as River Avenue, as far south as the border, as far west as the Union Depot and as far east as Cotton Street.

A National Historic Register Nomination would provide property owners with state and federal tax incentives if they chose to follow restoration guidelines.

The contract stipulated the survey start in Duranguito, since the neighborhood's historical significance has been hotly contested.  The city of El Paso plans to build a downtown arena in that location.

Joe Gudenrath, the executive director of the El Paso Downtown Management District, has not seen the results of the survey.

However, the District's Board of Directors did issue a position statement a few months ago on the issue.

"The Board recognizes the benefits associated with the designation and its potential influence on future economic investment, and believes that the designation and/or future use of tax credits be the determination of the property owner. The board does not support the use of the survey and its results to establish any restriction on properties or to limit the rights of property owners."

"When I look at the downtown as a whole, I think we need to have a combination of the maintenance of our historical assets but also allowing future growth and development and new construction to happen.  And have a hybrid where to where you can offer the general public opportunities in different regards," said Gudenrath.

A National Historic register Nomination would not necessarily prevent a property from being demolished.

Gudenrath said restoring a building using National Historic Register guidelines may not be financially possible for all property owners.

"When you are pursuing the tax credits, there is that incentive but there is also that restriction that tells you 'you must restore it according to the guidelines established  by the state and federal government'. And in some cases those costs could extend beyond what they would normally require if it were a simple building restoration." 
 


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