EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The City of El Paso offers a possible road to ending years of legal fighting over the proposed Downtown Arena.
The unexpected announcement came in a news release from the city just before the end of the business day.
The city is calling this a “counter settlement offer” directly to a settlement offer received from Houston Billionaire J.P. Bryan, who has been funding the fight to protect Duranguito where the city wants to build the arena.
The release address three specific suggestions from Bryan, including moving the arena site to airport property.
Here is specifically what was proposed and what the city said in response:
- Spend $35 million on renovations to the Abraham Chavez Theater to fulfill the promise of the 2012 Quality of Life Bond to deliver a multipurpose performing arts and entertainment facility. Use savings from $180 million by not building a standalone MPC to complete other Quality of Life bond projects.
City’s response: This request will not fulfill the expectations of the community. The MPC is the result of studies conducted over the span of 20 years. Voters overwhelming approved the development of an MPC that would provide a variety of entertainment events, including sports.
- Create a local and federal Historic District in the Union Plaza area and invest an unknown number of millions of dollars for public uses, including low revenue private and/or nonprofit uses.
City’s response: Proposal is not financially viable. The condition of buildings in the area includes many that are in demolition by neglect. None of the structures within the footprint currently have any local, state or federal historic designation. The results of an archeological study to be completed by the City will document the history of the area. Further, under the National Register of Historic Place, buildings with historic designations may be demolished provided the loss is mitigated. Mitigated efforts include Historic American Building Surveys, which the City has completed on multiple buildings within the footprint.
- Entice a private developer to build a sports venue on Airport property with no public dollars. However, the request does not identify the private developer and goes against the voter-approved ballot that calls for the MPC to be located within Downtown.
City’s response: The language in the ordinance calling for the election stated the MPC would be located in downtown. The City has a contract with the voters to deliver an MPC in downtown. In addition, it is unlikely that the private sector would build a facility with private dollars on airport land when successful models call for such facilities to be located within downtown and tend to require public dollars. It is also important to note that the buildings, which had been privately owned, are in demolition conditions by neglect. In addition, FAA regulations restrict the location such facility in an around aviation uses.
The city did offer to add the Trost-designed firehouse into the arena design. The city said this will help keep the footprint smaller and should make up for the loss of other properties in the area.
The statement ends with the city saying it is always open to engaging in good faith negotiations and claims Bryan did not show up to mediation in February before declining to buy buildings in the arena’s proposed footprint.
Lead preservationist Max Grossman said the settlement offer was co-signed by him and Bryan, and he believes what they are offering is a simple solution that will allow this and the 2012 Quality of Life projects to be built.
At this time, Grossman said he is reviewing the response with his attorney’s and plans to respond.