Mayor Oscar Leeser signals he won’t act on Downtown Historic District, which includes Duranguito

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – A late night statement from Mayor Oscar Leeser seems to signal he won’t act on the Downtown Historic District application set for discussion this Saturday.

The proposed district by the county includes the Duranguito neighborhood, where the city aims to build its multipurpose performing arts and entertainment center.

Leeser’s late statement suggests he may not get involved in the county’s pursuit to create the district, which would include the neighborhood. The district’s application is up for review and a vote by a branch of the Texas Historical Commission on Saturday morning.

KTSM 9 News has tried reaching him through his office and by cellphone for comment. The news station has not heard back in almost a week.

He said he campaigned on improving the Abraham Chavez Theatre and convention center, allowing the city to pursue the 2012 Quality of Life Bond project. It will help attract larger conventions and events the “community needs,” he said.

“This would have a positive economic impact not only downtown, but with businesses and service providers throughout our region,” he said. “My position has not changed.”

El Paso County’s proposal for a historic district with nearly 300 properties hinges on the decision by the Texas Historical Commission on Saturday. If approved, the district would become one of the largest historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places in the country.

But it is clear that the application needs to be approved with a boundary that includes the Duranguito neighborhood in Union Plaza. County Commissioner David Stout told KTSM 9 News that if the application were sent back for revisions, the project may end or need more money to start again.

The district would include 13 properties in the neighborhood bucking the city’s stance on whether they have historical significance.

Leeser statement

The Texas Historical Commission requested an opinion from the city of El Paso in November on the nominations of the Downtown El Paso Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places. The response, sent by the previous mayor in December, reflected a decision made by the City Council of El Paso on September of 2020 – and reaffirmed by council vote in December – supporting the nomination, with the exclusion of the previously selected MPC site, and asking for a postponement of the meeting in order to afford the city enough time to provide additional information.

I look forward to working with my fellow elected officials, with a particular focus on working as a team to ensure the best possible outcome for the citizens of our region.

Mayor Oscar Leeser

This story will be updated.

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