El Paso

Duranguito residents react to judge's decision on downtown arena

Duranguito residents react to judges...

El PASO, Texas - There are very few residents still living in El Paso's Duranguito neighborhood. 

Most people began to move out when the city offered them thousands of dollars to relocate in order to make way for a downtown arena.

But a couple of residents are standing firm on their decision not leave.

Renter Antonia Morales, 52, says she turned down the city's financial offer to leave the neighborhood she has called home for decades.

"I do not want to get out. They also offered me $14,000 to leave but I told them no," Morales said. "We are still going to keep fighting."

The legal battle between the city of El Paso and those defending the Duranguito neighborhood continues after a judge declared a mixed ruling Tuesday afternoon.

The Austin judge ruled the spending of public funds on a sports arena is not valid under the ordinance.

But spending public funds on a new multipurpose performing arts and entertainment facility in downtown El Paso is allowed by law.

The judge also said she would not make a ruling on the petition issue the city wanted to stop. That leaves the door open for those against the downtown arena to possibly delay the process even further.

A petition could possibly put the arena back on the ballot for another vote.

"The residents kept stressing out. Why do they want to build here when there are so many other places in El Paso? Why does is have to be here?" Morales said. "We want to fight because it is not right."

Duranguito renter Hector Franco is moving out of his apartment next week. He took $9,000 the city gave him and bought a mobile home in Ysleta. But he's worried about how he, his wife and her 97-year-old father will get to their doctor's appointments.

"I do not have a vehicle," Franco said. "(We'll have to take) the bus and it's going to take us at least two hours to get to the doctors."

Franco also claims he never got moving money that city officials promised him.

A few doors away, the home Emily Gardea rented sits empty.

So does the doghouse in front of the home. Gardea moved but she was unable to take her two dogs with her. Her new apartment does not allow pets. Heartbroken, she gave one dog to her daughter and another to a man.

Two months ago, a crying Gardea told ABC-7,  "I don't want to move."  Gardea said she had lived in the Duranguito neighborhood for 40 years. When asked if she was scared, Gardea said, "Yes. I don't know where I am going. Because of my dogs, I can't go to an apartment."

Gardea's next-door neighbor, Romelia Mendoza, is the lone property owner refusing to sell.

Mendoza's property is located just on the edge of the arena footprint near the corner of Chihuahua and Paisano.

She is still living in her home and showing no signs of giving up.

City officials say they will build the build the $180 million, voter-approved arena around Mendoza's property.

The fight to save Duranguito may not be over, but with empty streets lined with vacant homes that have boarded-up windows, the neighborhood is showing signs of  fading.


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