POSTED: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 3:36pm
UPDATED: Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 4:13pm
EL PASO (KTSM) — The El Paso Buildings and Standards Commission voted to allow the owners of the controversial Gateway Hotel to secure the building and eventually fix it up.
At a meeting downtown Wednesday evening, City staff recommended the property be spared demolition after deciding the historic hotel can be rehabilitated.
This is contrast to what was said at a March 10 news conference, days after the hotel was closed for a laundry list of code violations.
That day, City officials said they planned to propose knocking down the more than 100-year-old property.
Environmental Services Deputy Director Kurt Fenstermacher told NewsChannel 9 Wednesday a final analysis completed one week ago showed the building is salvagable.
Gateway ownership now has 30 days to comply with the order to secure.
NewsChannel 9 spoke with Mario Gonzalez, the attorney representing one of the hotel's partial owners, Soncha McCormick.
The principal owner of the Gateway, Yun Sung Sook, remains locked in the La Tuna federal prison after being convicted in a 2011 human trafficking case involving the hotel.
Gonzalez said the federal goverment placed a lien on the property following the conviction, and that is what kept the owners from trying to rehab the building.
"If you're pouring in money to fix it up or improve it, in some ways, you are encouraging the federal government to take it," Gonzalez told NewsChannel 9.
The attorney added the government has now backed off of the lien and his client, McCormick, is ready to help renovate the Gateway.
However, Gonzalez added restoring the hotel could mean the 41 displaced low-income tenants may never return.
"Here's the irony of it all," Gonzalez said, "If this building gets rehabbed to the state it once was, I don't think the type of tenant that was in there will ever be able to live there. That's just economics."