Thursday, July 16, 2015

Council to Discuss Historic Survey Grant

Street sign in the Congress Avenue Historic District in Austin, Texas
Should downtown El Paso become a National Historic District, here are the facts:

If you are a building owner of a building on the national registry and you want to tear it down, put up a parking lot or build something new, YOU CAN. It's your property.

If you are a building owner and want to update your property without preserving the historic character, YOU CAN. It's your property.

If you are a building owner and want to restore the building to its historic character (while updating the inside), YOU CAN. And you can get 45% of the project cost to do so!

It's all up to the property owner. Period. If indeed you want to preserve an historic building that you own and refurbish it to maintain the historic integrity, you will have to follow some rigorous requirements. But you get 45% of the project cost. That's up from just 20% available when the Mills Building was 

Not only does a National Registry National Historic District mean money in the pockets of building owners, it means money in the pockets of the city. According to Shannon Shea Miller, the Historic Preservation Officer of San Antonio:

"[o]ur historic downtown has contributte greatly to the heritage tourism industry that supports our local economy . . . The income generated by visitors has an overall economic impact of more than $12 billion and employment generated by the tourism industry tops 112,000 jobs. Most of these visitors are staying, eating and shopping Downtown."

So why did the executive director of the El Paso Downtown Development District Joe Gudenrath call City Manager Tommy Gonzalez and Gonzalez then order the return of grant money to do an historic survey that would have led to an Historic Register District, 45% of project money to willing owners and billions of dollars in heritage tourism for the city?

Not only does it not make sense BUT it doesn't make sense that the City Manager took it upon himself to return the money rather than letting City Council make that decision as Rep. Claudia Ordaz argues. (See Why didn’t City Council decide? Historic survey funds returned without rep vote in last weekend's El Paso Inc.)

According to an El Paso Times story "the Downtown Management District said it opposes the survey because 'the simple act of preserving historical buildings does not advance the DMD's goals of revitalizing Downtown El Paso and discourages other investment.'

What other investment? What's the hidden agenda?

Apparently there has been enough outcry to place the grant on next Monday's City Council agenda

elpasonaturally has much more to say about this particular item. For now, here is a message from Max Grossman, Vice-Chair, El Paso County Historical Commission:

We just learned that our plan to conduct an architectural survey of downtown El Paso and establish a national historic district there is not dead after all! On Monday, City Council, Mayor Leeser and City Manager Gonzalez will meet and decide once and for all whether to move forward with our plan or terminate it completely.

Please write to the them IMMEDIATELY and express your support:;;;;;;;;;

I just sent a letter on behalf of the El Paso County Historical Commission (below). Please make certain that your own letter is productive and positive. For background information, see the two recent front-page reports:

Feel free to share your letter with us as a Facebook message.

Many thanks,


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