A small steering committee will meet Thursday night to meet with the design firm hired by the city on future plans for the downtown multipurpose cultural and performing arts center.
An email obtained by El Paso Matters shows the city has invited a group of about 15 people to attend two meetings that will “kick off the feasibility and programming study” for the downtown arena. The first meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Thursday on the second floor of the Welcome Center across from San Jacinto Square downtown. The email does not say if the meeting is open to the public.
The decision to advance the feasibility study comes as the two deteriorating buildings that were meant to be protected by the city from further damage at the downtown arena site remain intact.
“We’re partnering with Gensler to lead the effort to gather feedback from key community members. Because of your passion and expertise, you are invited to be part of the steering committee for this project,” said Daniela Quesada, chief city architect, in the June 6 email sent to selected participants.
City officials did not respond to a request from El Paso Matters to speak with city staff about the steering committee or work that needed to be done to secure the two buildings in the fenced area of the site. arena.
The committee is made up of some city employees as well as Max Grossman, who led the legal battle against the city, as well as members of various community groups, including Creative Kids, Rio Bravo Group, Underserved Communities Foundation, El Paso Downtown Management. District, El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and El Paso architect Martina Lorey.
“I haven’t really received any information in advance, so I’m interested to know what they’re planning or what the process is,” said Sito Negron, an assistant to the El Paso County Commissioner, David Stout, who was invited to participate in both meetings. “I think a measure of their sincerity will be looking at the transparency of the process and its inclusiveness from the start.”
Negron said he was not opposed to the downtown arena, but advocated for the preservation of the Duranguito neighborhood where the city plans to build the project.
Two meetings will take place with the group according to the email.
The first meeting will take place to gather thoughts and feedback to help “define the various uses and character of the new building and adjacent spaces”.
The second meeting on June 22 will be to elaborate further on what the design firm interpreted from the initial meeting.
In April, the city hired San Francisco-based Mr. Arthur Gensler & Associates, Inc., for approximately $800,000 to conduct the feasibility study.
Part of the study is supposed to include public engagement.
The study was part of a request for advice made in November to determine the cost of the downtown arena project, ways to protect damaged buildings, how existing buildings can be incorporated and to negotiate the end of a years-long legal battle that severed the signing bond. project approved by voters in 2012 to move forward.
The city council approved about $29,000 in March to secure the Chinese laundry building at 212 W. Overland Ave. and the Flor de Luna Building at 300 W. Overland Ave. in the Duranguito neighborhood where the city plans to build the project. The buildings showed no signs of recent major work on Thursday.
The city and Grossman have reached an agreement that the city will not proceed with an archaeological survey under a permit from the Texas Historical Commission until there is a settlement between the parties or until 30 days after the conclusion of an appeal to the Supreme Court of Texas. The survey is required before the city can begin building the project.