El Paso

Latest city agreement does not call for buildings in arena footprint to be saved

Latest city agreement does not call for buildings in arena footprint to be saved

EL PASO, Texas - There is disagreement between some city representatives on whether certain buildings or building facades, in the footprint of the Multipurpose Performing Art and Entertainment Center should be saved.

The city has been discussing options with the Texas Historical Commission for a few buildings that some say have historical value. The issue was discussed at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

Under a early version of a memorandum of understanding, or agreement, between the City and the Texas Historical Commission dated October 2017, the city would have agreed to preserve at least two buildings in the arena's footprint. 

Those buildings were the Trost Fire Station, located at 331 S. Santa Fe, and the "Mansion" at 306 W. Overland.

Rep. Peter Svarzbein argued for preserving the buildings or working the facades into the design plan for the downtown arena.

"By looking more seriously at incorporating those two buildings or something that makes sense both financially and aesthetically, we can create a more interesting and pleasing design that is in line with contemporary multipurpose center design," Svarzbein said.

Rep. Michiel Noe argued preserving some buildings could have an impact on the size of the arena and the number of seats it could hold.

"That's not what I signed onto. That's not what I sold to the public when I was out trying to get this bond passed and I won't have my name attached to something like that. I'm not going to put an albatross around this thing's neck. It's supposed to be successful, not an art piece," Noe said.

The current memorandum of understanding, provided to City Council representatives Monday,  does not make any promises about preserving buildings or their facades.

City Attorney Sylvia Borunda-Firth said representatives were provided with the current version of the proposed agreement Monday night.

"The Historic Commission has confirmed to us that their jurisdiction and their interest is with regard to the archeological sites, and so the most recent draft was prepared in consultation with the archeologist, which we have engaged, and has more focus toward the archeology of the project," Borunda-Firth said.

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.

The current memorandum of understanding is currently pending review and approval at the Texas Historical Commission and with the Texas Attorney General.




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