El Paso fire official says assessment of historic Popular Building safety still needed


EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Owners of the historic Popular Building sitting on a prominent corner in Downtown El Paso still have some hurdles to make with city inspectors over the safety of the building.

The historic building, scrutinized for poor fire safety and having rubbish throughout the building, remains under evaluation by city fire officials.

“Before we actually pass off this building, we’d like to go back in there and do a full assessment once again,” Adriel Ayala, a lieutenant with the El Paso Fire Department, said. “They’re not completely, have been all passed off through plan review.”

Ayala spoke during a recent Building and Standards Commission meeting. He told commissioners that the owners of the property have made progress renovating the building but officials with the fire department wanted to make evaluations.

The Popular Building is owned by J&M Properties L.P., which also owns the California-based Fallas Paredes Discount Stores chain. More than two years ago, the city pushed the owners to make improvements to the property after calling it a “hazard to public health.”

The building’s owners had been using three stories on the commercial side of the more than 100-year-old building for the clothing store. The residential side was completely vacated for renovation and rehabilitation efforts.

The eight-story property was designed by famed Southwest architect Henry Trost.

Inspectors found the roof was damaged, pipes were broken and that fire prevention systems were not up to code two years ago. The elevators also required maintenance at the time.

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