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.
More pics on flickr: Demolition Time
While downtown this weekend, I stopped to focus on a sculptural installation right outside of the El Paso Museum of Art.
“Identidad Geometrica” was designed by Oswaldo Sagástegui and built by his son Mauricio Sagastegui. The abstract sculpture was installed at the entrance to EPMA, in the spot originally home to Luis Jimenez’s “Vaquero”.
A gift by a local art patron, it fills the void left by “Vaquero”. I miss the old “Vaquero” piece. It had raw power and emotion, greeting you with a vibrancy that’s a sharp contrast to “Identidad Geometrica’s” angular geometry.
“Identidad Geometrica” is a significant piece in its own right. At close to 16 ft high, it plays well with the sun as it travels across the the El Paso sky. The prism/triangle shapes cast interesting shadows and allow for unique views through them. It’s been here for a couple of years now and I suppose it will grow on me.
Sometimes the sun is in the right place.
The weather for this past weekends Art Market was perfect. Not a bit of wind unlike the previous, and the temps were much more in line with the season. The El Paso Diabetes Association held their annual Run/Walk downtown and as a result there was a lot more “foot traffic” at the Art Market:)
With the weather playing nice, I felt it was time to sample some of Independent Burgers‘ homemade ice cream! It’s good stuff but the fancy cart is what sells it. I wish they would come up with some way to have burgers as well…an Independent food truck might be a good idea.
I broke away for a bit to get some more pics of the freshly painted sphinx at the Scottish Rite Temple. For the past couple of years they had a color treatment that highlighted the headdress but recently returned it to the classical white:
The Temple sits adjacent to the recently opened Chihuahua’s Ballpark. It was nice to see it sans construction barricades and busy workers.
It’s really shoehorned into the old City Hall space but it works. It looks a lot nicer than City Hall ever did. I won’t complain and hope to get out to a game soon to take it all in. Back at the Art Market the races were finishing up and El Paso’s Ballet Forklorico was performing a demonstration:
Western Street where The Garden and Brick and Mortar sits is pretty cool now, a far cry from the days of being a dusty parking lot for Club 101. The brick walkway and recently added overhead lighting jazz up the space, making it great for outdoor events such as this. As always more pics can be found on flickr: Diabetes Run/Walk
One of the more unique buildings sitting off of San Jacinto Plaza is the Roberts-Banner building. I’ve checked it out a few times recently and used to frequent it for lunch in my runner/courier days, when it had a McDonalds.
It was built in 1910 and is one of the better surviving Trost buildings downtown, though it’s mostly vacant now. There had been a banner advertising its remodel but it’s either been removed or blown off. El Paso Development news reports the city’s interested in it, but no firm details.
The owners have the all the doors open, either in a bid to air it out or because the locks don’t work. It adds to the already surreal, frozen in time vibe, the interior has. There is one office that still houses a business, G J Jewelry:
The small space is packed and looks to have all the necessities for the trade. I’ve only been here on the weekends and haven’t seen anybody inside. The Christmas decorations sort of imply some level of inactivity, but you never know:
All of the office spaces are small one or two room affairs still sporting radiators for heat. You get the sense that this building was probably quite active in its past, housing all manner of solo practitioners, lawyers, doctors etc.
The Roberts-Banner is in a good spot overlooking the rebirth of our downtown. Lets hope the building gets its share of TLC too. Full set of pics here on flickr: Roberts-Banner Building
After setting up at the Art Market, I wandered off again to capture some more pics of buildings and such downtown. Early Saturday mornings still project a eerie ghost town feel, the only exception being the shopfronts that are readying to open for the day. The lone Starbucks downtown is closed on Saturdays so, NO LATTE FOR YOU! I did notice that one building on Mills Ave, that used to house Arby’s many years ago, now has a new facade. It’s a bit disappointing to see the owners went with a mirror treatment and not something more in keeping with the architecture of downtown.
I guess it will make it easy to keep clean:) The Banner Building next door still has it’s period charm though:
The Banner had a McDonald’s in it, like.. forever! I guess once the buses got moved from San Jacinto plaza, there was a big drop in business and they have since vacated. The Banner is interesting because it has a lot of little office spaces in it, mostly vacant now:
There’s a large notification that the Banner is getting remodeled, maybe timing for the re-opening of San Jacinto plaza. It would be cool to see it return to a hub of activity, with lots of neat little shops and offices or something. Hopefully they will retain some of its old timey aesthetic.
I passed a closed jewelry/ watch repair place but i’ll save that for another post…