Dear Media and Friends,
I am pleased to report that the State Board of Review of the Texas Historical Commission will be voting on whether to recommend approval of the Segundo Barrio National Register Historic District this coming Saturday. Established in 1885, the Segundo Barrio is one of the largest and most historic urban barrios in the American Southwest.
Amazingly, the Segundo Barrio currently has no historical overlay and there is only a single building on the National Register of Historic Places, in spite of the rich architectural heritage of the neighborhood.
If the district is approved, up to 686 buildings will be confirmed as “Contributing” properties and thus eligible for generous federal and state tax credits that could pay for up to 45% of the cost of restoration. There will be no added regulatory burden for property owners who do not wish to use the credits.
The tax credits will be critically important for the restoration of Sacred Heart Church, an ambitious project that is in the fundraising stage.
The plan to establish a Downtown National Register Historic District and a Segundo Barrio National Register Historic District was unanimously approved by the El Paso County Commissioners Court on February 8, 2016 and has received unanimous support ever since. In 2017, the County conducted an architectural survey of downtown El Paso and the adjacent barrios as a necessary step.
The Kemp Smith law firm, which claims that it is working pro bono as a service to the community, has led an effort to prevent the establishment of the Downtown district. That district was unanimously approved by the SBR on January 16 and is currently under final review by the National Park Service.
So far, Kemp Smith has not mounted any opposition to the Segundo Barrio project. But given the City’s attempt to implement a plan in 2006 that would have demolished more than 100 acres of the barrio and displaced hundreds of people, one should not be surprised if they try to interfere here as well.
Will the Downtown Management District, Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, and/or Paul Foster and his developer and attorney friends try to stop this project? That is a question that should be asked by the media.
CALL IN VIA ZOOM TO SUPPORT THIS PROJECT!
The State Board of Review meeting will be held virtually from Austin this Saturday at 8:00am MST. You can visit the SBR link here. The draft application is here. I have attached the agenda (item IV.7) and the instructions for public comment. Please consider attending!
Have a great week.
Max Grossman, PhD
El Paso History Alliance