Dear Media and Friends,
I have received word that the largest tenement in Duranguito is being emptied of its remaining residents by the owner, Lynx Properties, Ltd, which is controlled by Mike Churchman. 315 W. Overland Avenue stands at the northeast corner of Leon Street. Built in approximately 1915, it is one of the best preserved brick tenements that was constructed during the Mexican Revolution and it housed numerous migrant families who escaped from violence across the border. It has housed many migrant families and their children ever since.
The property has about 17 units and was fully occupied until a little over two years ago, when the owner began to send notices to vacate to the tenants, telling them that the units would be remodeled. The entire western wing of the complex was vacated and part of the eastern wing. Most of the residents left before the end of 2019.
Today only four of the units are occupied, and according to Edwin “Mike” Leibbrand, who lives with his partner Jesus Garcia in unit 5, all remaining tenants have received notices to vacate by May 4. I have attached the notice dated March 3 that was sent to Mike.
So far, none of the units have been remodeled.
Mike and Jesus have lived in their unit for 14 years and have been excellent tenants, never failing to pay their rent. They are both disabled. Jesus is a diabetic with congestive heart failure and sleeps in a hospital-type bed, and Mike suffers from Parkinson’s disease.
According to Mike, they and the other remaining tenants have been ordered to leave their homes permanently, during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Mike recently retained Veronica Carbajal of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) as his attorney and she may be reached at Vcarbajal@trla.org. TRLA also represents four current and former Duranguito residents of the “Arena Footprint.”
The County architectural survey states that 315 W. Overland Ave. is individually eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, and the County has nominated it as a “contributing” property (along with 173 other downtown buildings) to be included within a National Register Historic District. This project was unanimously approved by the State Board of Review of the Texas Historical Commission on January 16 and will soon be reviewed by the National Park Service. If approved, 315 W. Overland will be eligible for federal and state tax credits that could pay for up to 45% of the cost of renovations.
Why is Lynx Properties, Ltd. vacating 315 W. Overland Ave. during this pandemic? The City subjected the building along with all the other privately owned structures within the “Arena Master Plan Area” to eminent domain on October 18, 2016, but I am not aware that the City has actually threatened to condemn that property.
Remodeling aside, could there be another motive of which we are not aware? Will the owner demolish the building?
Enquiring minds want to know.