City Blames Property Owners For Downtown Fire

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POSTED: Saturday, April 21, 2012 - 9:43pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - 8:56am

Supporters of the many historic buildings in downtown El Paso gathered this evening to remember a historic building that burnt down on Thursday.
After the fire destroyed a historic John Wesley Hardin building in downtown, community members and city leaders are asking building owners to prevent this from happening again.

"As you're watching it, you know and you start talking to people. Not necessarily anger, but I guess you get a little upset thinking in a sense could have been prevented,” said El Pasoan Gabriel Acuña.

Billy Abraham owns multiple buildings in downtown El Paso, he says Thursday's fire is devastating.

"It's tragic, I mean anytime you have a loss in the community like that it's bad, but bad things happen from time to time,” said Abraham.

Abraham says the city is pressuring him to find tenants for his now vacant building The Kress, but he says the city isn't doing enough to help.

"Inside it's clean, the taxes are paid, and it's really the only thing that is missing is a user. So, as much as I would like to have a user for this building, you know I can't just snap my fingers and make one appear, and that makes it difficult for me and any other investor,” said Abraham.

City Representative Susie Byrd says the city is doing the best it can to motivate property owners to renovate their buildings.

"The individual's that own those buildings that are about to fall down should feel ashamed. The city council has put in place incentives, all of the regularities. We are asking you to not to worry about them. We will get you through them,” said Byrd.

Abraham says tough economic times are making it difficult to find tenants. 

"I want to corporate with the city, I mean I've said this one hundred times. I think the fix is to create an economic environment where by there will be some incentives by way of property tax abatements that are significant, not minimal,” said Abraham.

The cause of Thursday's fire is still under investigation.

 

Comments News Comments

I liked your story, it was pretty hard hitting. Good job. You would think if property owners would at the least put enough money in to keep them from becoming fire hazards. This is the second fire in recent months in a Historic Building in downtown El Paso. What does it take a death of an innocent person or Fire Fighters!
Mr. Rubin’s (Helen of Troy and River Oaks) ignored requests from many community organizations over the years to at least protect this and other Historic buildings he owns. Mr. Rubin had owned this building since 1966!
Then you have other negligent owners like the Abrahams, who are letting some of the most unique and beautiful historic buildings crumble before our eyes. All the while the city points fingers at the property owners, when they too have been knowing accomplices in the allowing these buildings to become dangerous tinder boxes....Shame on El Paso's City Hall and all the those inside that building that sits on a top of the hill overlooking the crumbling historical district, rather like a "Palace Guard that turns its back on its own community". So sad......yet so predictable for this City.

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