Another year and another series of downtown buildings are set to be razed. After decades of little activity downtown, it seems like there are reports of buildings being demoed every few months or so. Whether by accident(?) or in the name of progress, even our city hall has come down. In almost all of the instances, there’s been much debate for history or for growth. The latest is a a block of buildings downtown that have preservationists up in arms that enough is enough.
I went down to check out the progress and River Oaks has moved fast to knock down these properties.
The front facades give little indication to the true history of the buildings. Most have been poorly re-skinned in attempts to “modernize” and its tough to see what can be salvaged.
Its natural to point the finger at the current owners but they can’t be held fully to fault. These buildings have had hard lives and it shows. Past “fixes” and “updates” by previous owners often do more damage than good. Restoration is a tricky proposition, requiring vast sums of money to do properly. Look at the recent Mills Building restoration, this was the second time its been done and required a complete gutting to get it right.
Contrast that to the Caples building remodel, which as been stalled forever and will likely never get done by the current owner.
Let’s hope that we don’t continue down the demolition path, erasing what history we have left. Downtown El Paso has lots worth saving and we must find the right mix of restore and reuse or we will wind up with parking lots everywhere.
I spent some time at the Downtown Artist Market on Saturday and after setting up, I walked up to what is called the Old San Francisco District of El Paso. Its a curious sliver of a neighborhood that looks like it was originally part of Sunset Heights before the freeway cut though town. There’s been a lot of activity in the area with the construction of the Chihuahua’s ballpark, and I wanted to see what effects if any, this has had on the area. I walked up the new pedestrian walkway, turning left at Franklin and about halfway down the block was the first sign of “progress.” The neighborhood laundry has been closed and looks to become some kind of establishment that sells alcohol:
The 60 day TABC required posting was on the door and the lot was fenced up. I’ll bet the cost of entry downtown for a bar/grill establishment has gone up in the last year so, making this location a prime target. It’s a short walk from the ballpark with street parking. Winding around to Missouri, facing east there is another building now empty that used to be a grocery:
There was no obvious activity. l’ll bet it won’t be long before something fills the empty space. The rest of the buildings are residential apartments so you have to figure that some sort parking requirements will go into effect to help the residents. Either that or on game night you just don’t leave your house unless you are coming back after the game. It’s a pretty cool little spot retaining, for now, a lot of charm for this often forgotten part of town. I shot a few more pics before I heading back to the market:
While browsing around, I walked a few blocks over to see how the area has changed in the last year with all the recent development activity. One new addition is a large pedestrian mall following Durango street from Overland to the site of the new stadium. There’s been a lot of talk about not having enough parking for the El Paso Chihuahua’s baseball games. This looks like a good way to shuttle foot traffic up the colorful walkway from the downtown transit terminal across from the Civic Center.
The artist market has grown leaps and bounds since the addition of the farmers market. Food trucks also frequent, parking down on San Francisco street, giving patrons plenty of grub to choose from.
One thing that would really help would be if more of the businesses in the area would open up for lunch on Saturday (Hello! the Garden and Brick & Mortar…) On the corner of San Antonio and Anthony streets sits The Mix , a cool retail/ shopping venue. A few retail stores were open but a pub and nearby restaurant opened later in the afternoon. Bummer.
With plenty of parking and new vendors, the Art Market is worth a weekend checkout. It’ll be interesting to see the area continue to grow once baseball takes hold downtown. There should be more to see and do as this and future seasons get going.
Queens of the Stone Age stopped in El Paso, playing at the Abraham Chavez theater on February 11, 2014. If memory serves me, they had only been here once before, in support of Songs for the Deaf. I didn’t go then and was quite surprised that they were coming back in support of …Like Clockwork. I didn’t want to miss this one, so I snagged a couple of tickets as soon as the pre-sale was announced.
They opened with the fast paced “You think I ain’t worth a dollar but I feel like a millionaire“. That song still packs a punch even without Nick Oliveri on lead vocals. From there it was a non stop assault. Queens is a pretty tight band, and one of the few whose songs you can count on sounding excellent live. Josh Homme’s vocals have been the constant through the bands revolving door lineup over the years. I would wager he’s one of the current top rock vocalists. No auto-tuning or trickery required.
The Chavez is a medium sized venue, pretty much every seat gets you a good view. QOTSA played like they were in a stadium though, it was LOUD. Three songs in I had to resort to ear plugs (I’m old, I know.) They slowed mid-way for the title track off the latest album, which I’ve posted a clip of below:
(Turn the volume down, its quite loud even on the slow parts)
The show lasted about an hour and 45 minutes and they did not disappoint. They came out for an encore and on the last song they literately brought the set down. Shortly after the start of the last song, Song for the Deaf, Michael Shuman knocked his amp stack to the floor, leading Homme to pull the drum kit down. Rock n’ Roll baby!
If they come again I’ll definitely catch them next time. The Sun City has finally been getting some acts worth seeing. With last year’s NIN, and upcoming Old 97’s in May I guess IT IS ALL GOOD EL PASO.
Sunday was rally day for the EPMINIS and the day’s rally was set for White Sands New Mexico. After 3 three days of rain it was nice to get out and enjoy the break from the bleakness.
The group met at the Starbucks at Redd Road and after a quick trip update, we were on the way.
There was quite a turnout from the El Paso crowd as well as some MINI motorists from New Mexico. After a brief stop and Micky D’s on Highway 70 in Las Cruises Cruces it was a high speed burn out to the monument. There had been reports that because of the rain we wouldn’t be able to drive in far but the weather had turned in our favor and the road in was open.
There was some sledding:
There was plenty of great photo opportunities and the MINIs all lined up are always quite a show. After a couple of hours it was time to motor.
On our way back, we had a bit of a MINI excursion on our own. We stopped at a few old buildings on the outskirts of Las Cruces and I wandered around for some pics: