EL PASO, Texas - The Texas Supreme Court on Saturday granted an emergency request to stop any demolition in the Duranguito area downtown.
“The City of El Paso may not demolish any buildings within the footprint of the project... until further order of the Court,” the ruling from the high court stated.
Late Friday, an appeals court in Austin had lifted an injunction that appeared to clear the way for the City of El Paso to begin demolishing buildings within the proposed downtown arena footprint.
But the Supreme Court decision is the latest development in the legal tug of war between the city and supporters of the area who feared demolition could begin any moment.
"The city may attempt to demolish the buildings in the arena footprint tonight, even though 13 of them are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places," warned local historic preservationist Max Grossman, who had originally obtained the injunction from the Third Court of Appeals back in January.
None of the buildings currently has historic designation.
“The second ruling (from Friday) is another affirmation that the City of El Paso has and continues to comply with state law,” wrote City Attorney Karla Nieman in a statement. “As before, we are not surprised by the opposition’s continual efforts to further delay the project and impact our community’s quality of life and economic development.”
The city of El Paso now has until July 2nd to file a response to the state Supreme Court.
Grossman has repeatedly sought to block the city from demolishing buildings in the Duranguito neighborhood in downtown's Union Plaza District, complaining that a state permit the city received was issued improperly.
“Demolition is now imminent,” read the request filed overnight with the Texas Supreme Court. “...Thus, as of now, the City may immediately begin demolition and certainly will. The City’s ‘demolish immediately’ attitude is shown by its pattern and practice of commencing demolition, at all hours of the day, when the City’s conduct is not constrained by court order (and, frankly, even when it has been so constrained).”
But the city did not move to demolish in the middle of the night.
The city wants to tear down vacant buildings within the so-called footprint to build a new arena that leaders say would attract major sporting events and concerts. Voters previously approved a bond measure to fund the project, which Grossman also challenged in court. That separate case is also pending before the Texas Supreme Court.
The $180 million project was approved in 2012 and has been mired by legal delays. Mayor Dee Margo has said its budget will not be enough to build what was promised to voters.
El Paso officials did not immediately comment on the Supreme Court's decision or on any demolition plans.