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:
For the full set of pics see: San Francisco District on flickr
About a month ago, it was published in the El Paso Times and in the El Paso Inc that the current owners of the Muir Building want to tear it down. As you might have guessed this has already stirred the pot between historians and developers:
I had kind of forgotten about it, but as luck would have it I came across a blog post from the TimeTravelNow Blog. It had a picture of the Muir building from about the 1950s:
This happy bustling scene is a sharp contrast to what the location looks like now:
It got me thinking a bit. That contrast highlights the challenges that we’ll face in the coming years as we try to wrestle back vibrancy to our downtown after years of neglect. We have had a few redevelopment shining stars, namely the Plaza Theater and the recent Mills Building remodels. My fear is that like the Muir building, much of our historic buildings are to far gone to salvage.
City council has moved forward with the historic decision to approve the destruction of city hall to make way for a AAA baseball stadium. El Paso will soon be facing some serious development vs. cultural vs. design aesthetic choices to make. Right next to City Hall are some significant historic buildings like the Scottish Rite Temple. There are many more behind it, in the Old San Francisco Historic District. Will the historic guidelines the city has established for the area hold true? Does it apply to the design of the Stadium?
The great beast ASARCO has already been slain and the government is winding up its far reaching public corruption scandal. Downtown development is our next great battle royal and the factions are lining up to take sides. Break out the popcorn, this will be a fun fight to watch.
Update (10/10/2012): the El Paso Inc has a updated article regarding this issue, check it out here: Preservation vs. Progress by Robert Grey
Update (11/13/2012): KVIA is reporting that the council has reversed an earlier decision and decided to let the building be demolished