El Paso News

Abraham bankruptcy complicates arena project

(KTSM) - The chapter 11 bankruptcy of notorious El Paso building owner Billy Abraham is complicating an already complicated situation when it comes to the city's planned Downtown arena. 

The city currently has a sale of contract with Abraham's company, Franklin Acquisitions, for the old Chinese laundry building located at 212 W. Overland Ave. The property is within the footprint of the arena project. 

El Paso City Attorney Sylvia Borunda Firth told KTSM though the sale was formalized last April, the city has yet to acquire the title for the property. 

"We do have a contract with Mr. Abraham, but he has not been able to deliver a clear title because of all the judgment liens that he owes," Borunda Firth said. 

Hours after Abraham filed for bankruptcy Tuesday, El Paso's city council voted to hire outside legal counsel. Borunda Firth said though Abraham is a 'willing seller,' the city will try and use the power of eminent domain to take the property.

But before that happens, the city needs to ask the bankruptcy court to lift its hold on the building. 

"We don't expect it to take that long," the city attorney said. 

As KTSM reported, the city is paying Abraham $855,000 for the Chinese laundry property. It was appraised at just under $168,000 in 2017 by the El Paso Central Appraisal District.

The arena project is already tied up in the courts over the use of the facility, and as the result of a legal battle between the city and local preservationists hoping to save the 'Duranguito' neighborhood. 

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