National Park Service reviewing Downtown El Paso Historic District application

Local

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – El Paso County plans to recognize hundreds of Downtown properties for their historical significance is in the hands of the National Park Service.

An official with the federal agency charged with reviewing the county’s application for a Downtown Historic District says it may take some time before a decision is made. And, the process may take up to four more weeks before the agency has an answer.

Earlier this month, the Texas Historical Commission forwarded the application to the park service for a determination. If approved, nearly 300 Downtown properties with stand alone and contributing historical significance will be put on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.

Designations are primarily honorary and generally do not place restrictions on property owners. Properties within a district are eligible to use historic tax credits and federal dollars to renovate buildings.

The proposed district has been tangled in controversy due to an existing city ordinance and because of 13 properties included in the plans that exist within the footprint of the city’s proposed multipurpose performing arts and entertainment center.

A THC memo to the NPS says there is significant historical and cultural merit to the district but 122 of 214 property owners within the proposed boundaries oppose the designation. Some letters of opposition lack notary seals but with advice from the Texas Office of Attorney general, the THC finds them to be valid.

In January, a review board with THC considered the merit of the county’s application for the district. Thought the members of that commission heard opposition, they still agreed to approve the county’s application and move it along the process.

“The THC requested that the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, Joy Beasley, make the eligibility determination,” a THC letter says.

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