Preservation Magazine, Spring 2017

Development Plan Threatens El Paso Neighborhood

Duranguito

photo by: Katherine Belarmino

Local preservationists are fighting to save El Paso's Barrio Duranguito from redevelopment.

In each Transitions section of Preservation magazine, we highlight places of local and national importance that have recently been restored, are currently threatened, have been saved from demolition or neglect, or have been lost. Here's one from Spring 2017.

The longest-occupied area in El Paso, Texas, is facing a potential threat from an arena development plan put forward by the city.

Barrio Duranguito, located within the larger Union Plaza neighborhood, was established by the early 1900s by migrants from Durango, Mexico. (The oldest existing structure dates to 1879.) The $180 million arena project was proposed in 2012, and in 2016 the city council approved its location in a section of downtown that encompasses part of Duranguito, allowing the city to use eminent domain if necessary. An estimated 150 people could face displacement, sparking an outcry from preservationists and community residents.

In December of 2016 the city council voted to rule out that location, sparing the neighborhood, but in early January it released plans for a new feasibility study that once again considered the area viable. The attraction of Duranguito is its proximity to convention and performing arts center El Paso Live; building the new arena within 1,000 feet of it would allow the city government to take advantage of $25 million in state tax incentives for new hotels over several years.

The grassroots organization Paso del Sur has been vocal about preserving Duranguito, circulating a petition and organizing protests. As of press time, the feasibility study had been nixed, but Duranguito/Union Plaza was still the city’s preferred site for the arena project.

Katherine Flynn is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores, and uncovering the stories behind historic places.

@kateallthetime

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