Media and Friends,
I am pleased to announce that the State Board of Review of the Texas Historical Commission has voted unanimously to recommend that Downtown El Paso become a National Register Historic District! This is the most significant preservationist initiative in the 148-year history of the City of El Paso and it will help ttransform our downtown into an economic engine for growth and a center for heritage tourism.
Unfortunately, the THC did a poor job of accommodating the public speakers, and there are many who were waiting patiently to speak and were denied the opportunity.
Supporters who were permitted to speak were: Cynthia Renteria of Paso del Sur, Max Grossman of Preservation Texas and The Trost Society, County Commissioner David Stout, City Rep. Claudia Lizette Rodriguez, and County Judge Ricardo Samaniego.
Opponents who spoke were: Paul Foster, David Jerome, Miguel Fernandez, Adam Frank, City Engineer Sam Rodriguez, City Architect Daniela Quesada, Mark Osborne of Kemp Smith LLC, and Jim Scherr.
In defiance of former Mayor Dee Margo and his lame-duck letter of December 23, three City Council reps. were waiting to speak to support the measure, but only Rep. Rodriguez was accommodated.
THC Executive Director Mark Wolfe announced that opponents filed a lawsuit yesterday in an effort to halt the nomination process, but he indicated that procedure was being properly followed and the nomination process would move forward anyway. It was announced that 60 property owners recently registered their opposition, ostensibly because they were contacted by Kemp Smith LLC, who told them Lord knows what… Several of those spoke today, including Paul Foster and Miguel Fernandez. They argued that the proposed district would harm development when, in fact, the truth is exactly the opposite. Bottom line: The THC State Board of Review cannot be bullied.
Much of the discussion focused on the “Arena Footprint,” where 13 properties are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Sam Rodriguez and Daniela Quesada tried to convince the Board to omit the rectangular footprint from the nomination but they failed utterly, since the properties objectively meet all the required criteria for inclusion.
Today’s outcome is a victory for every El Pasoan!
Have a wonderful day.
Max Grossman, PhD
Board of Directors, Preservation Texas
Vice-Chair, The Trost Society
Co-Chair, Restore Sacred Heart Church