You are on page 1of 5

April 9, 2018

Dear Mayor Margo,

This letter is in response to the letter you received on April 3, 2018 regarding the MPC from Mr. JP
Bryan. The letter received was in response to the letter we prepared for your signature outlining a path
for a resolution. The path for a resolution developed by Engineering Staff (CID) that was sent out on
Monday March 26, 2018 under your signature was prepared with the premise that the City is fiscally
constrained and that we had a willing partner(s) that would take on the restoration of the buildings
being preserved. Our recommendation was for Mr. Bryan to be part of the solution by providing the
funds necessary to acquire, restore and provide a use plan for the properties he is interested in
preserving. This would have mitigated the risk of the properties. In addition, they or a third party would
be eligible to access tax credits (the City is not eligible). The letter received (April 3, 2018) states that we
do not have a willing financial partner. The path to their resolution identifies the City as the sole
provider of all the funds needed to accomplish all the stake holder goals.

We now have a better understanding of what their goals and objectives are and we have an opportunity
to continue discussions to meet their goals and the goals of the community (to have a Multipurpose
Performance Arts Center (MPC) in Downtown). At this time though, we cannot recommend to you or
the City Council that we accept all their terms (referenced as “reasonable compromises”) that require
the City to spend funds to acquire, restore and operate the proposed preserved buildings. The City is
fiscally constrained to spend funds only for a public purpose. Under their own plan, the goal is to make
these properties saleable by making tax credits available under a Historic Overlay (H-overlay). The City is
not eligible for federal tax credits. In order to get to the final resolution, we need and are willing to
work with a private entity to provide the capital funds and operating funds for the acquisition,
preservation and operation of the buildings.

The City through its own preservation efforts (AB Fall Mansion, City 2, 3 and 4, Streetcar) and incentives
policies related to historic preservation/restoration has established that it values the preservation of
historic resources. We have a team comprised of licensed professional engineers, architects, historic
preservation experts (Ford, Powell and Carson – renowned in Texas for their contributions to historic
restoration, including La Villita in San Antonio) and archeologists (Moore Archeological out of Houston)
reviewing the options and providing input on how the City can work with Mr. Bryan to meet the goals
outlined in his letter. In order to get there, we need his partnership (financial) and/or his help recruiting
a financial private partner that sees the value he has established for the neighborhood. Through their
actions and requests, Mr. Bryan and his group looked to be primed to be that financial partner that
could help us get to a resolution. They have placed an enormous value in an area that has remained
inert with lack of investment for the past 20 years. The costs to complete the acquisitions and
restoration of those properties could cost the City no less than $15 million dollars, plus the ongoing
operating and maintenance costs. These are above and beyond the $180 million dollars approved by the
voters for the MPC. It is my hope that he reconsiders the investment he has made in pursuing the
preservation of the properties and/or helps the City recruit a Third Party partner that can work with the
City to achieve the goals he has established. Mr. Bryan and his team have established a vision for the
neighborhood; there is nobody better to help their vision become a reality.

Under the hope (and assumption) that the City can count on a Third Party private financial partner
(Third Party) that will take on the preservation of the properties, there are actually very few points of

disagreements left. Under your response letter (March 26, 2018), we noted few requests that the City
could not accommodate. Under his April 3, 2018 response, he outlined their responses and below we
note our comments and recommendations to their requests.

• The evolution of the footprint for the MPC added the properties 325 Santa Fe, 215 Paisano and
320 San Antonio. The evolution of the site plan was not an intent to posture for a better
negotiation position. Through the analysis, it makes sense to add those properties to enhance
the visitor experience to the area as citizens come in from the Union Depot Parking structure
(320 San Antonio) and to provide a welcome corridor (215 Paisano and 325 Santa Fe) for
residents and visitors and to especially welcome our visitors from Mexico. As you know, we
have Paseo de Las Luces already under construction and that will enhance the overall visitor
experience. With the streetcar route adjacent to these properties, it will bring additional
prominence not only the MPC footprint, but the neighborhood that is proposed for
o They have agreed to add 325 Santa Fe to the footprint and ensure the City completes
the archeological studies and monitoring. The City has hired an archeologist that will
complete all the necessary studies, explorations and monitoring required under the THC
guidelines for all the properties within the MPC footprint, including 325 Santa Fe.
o 215 W. Paisano – We disagree that the 1962 warehouse structure contributes to the
historic fabric of downtown. It has no stylistic influences and is not individually eligible
for NRHP. We believe it diminishes the historical value and prominence of the Trost Fire
House. We have asked our Historic preservation expert, Ford, Powell and Carson to
evaluate the significance of the structure.
o 311 and 315 W. Overland – They have asked to include the properties in the National
Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The City could support the National Historic
designation efforts, but a local H-overlay would need the property owner approval. This
shows our good faith effort toward a compromise and a negotiated settlement
• They have requested that the Trost Fire House not be used for anything other than an example
of 1930s fire house. This is contrary to industry standards of historic preservation where
adaptive reuse of historic buildings is widely seen as the norm as it increases the likelihood that
these structures will receive the necessary funding for maintenance and operation. We will
make a recommendation that the City move forward to nominate the facility for a National
Register or Historic Places designation. Currently the City uses it as a public safety facility
supporting downtown patrols. Programming an adaptive public reuse, such as public safety and
support activities for the MPC, increases the likelihood that the current and future City Councils
continue to provide funding for the maintenance and operation of the building. I would ask that
Mr. Bryan reconsider this request in order to provide firm support for the building to be
preserved long term.
• They have requested that the City create a local H-overlay on properties owned and not owned
by the City. As noted above, the City can support a National Historic District designation that
will make tax credits available for the property owners for all the properties requested to be
preserved (306 W. Overland -The Mansion, 305, 309, 311, 315, 321, 232, 325, 325 Chihuahua St;
301 Paisano; Trost Fire House; 325 Santa Fe has been agreed to be taken out and 215 Paisano is
asked to be reconsidered as we get more information from our Historic Preservation experts).

With the end goal of preservation of the structures and a historic designation of the
neighborhood, below are my recommendations and comments.
o Properties owned by the City: We can recommend to the City Council to approve a local
ordinance establishing an H-overlay. The following is the list of properties that would be
included in the ordinance.
306 W. Overland (The Mansion) – The structure would be put up for sale with a
minimum bid amount covering the cost of purchase.
311 Chihuahua is a vacant lot that serves as public parking and access to Fire
Station 11. This lot has a permanent access easement for Fire Station 11. The
city will need to retain ownership of this lot so long as Fire Station 11 remains
321 Chihuahua is a vacant lot- The lot would be put up for sale with a minimum
bid amount covering the cost of the purchase.
325 Chihuahua- This is a residential structure that would be put up for sale with
a minimum bid amount covering the cost of purchase.
301 Paisano – This is currently a parking lot. The city could retain this as a
parking lot and or put it up for sale with a minimum bid amount covering the
cost of the purchase.
Trost Fire House – The City would retain the structure and nominate it for NHRP
designation continuing with a public adaptive re-use.
o Properties not owned by the City: The City cannot proceed with the creation of the local
H-overlay without property owner approval. This is where a Third Party is critical to
meet their goals. Their letter even states that under the H-overlay, the structures can
still be demolished with Historic Landmark Commission and City Council approval.
A willing partner can help ensure the preservation of the structures and we
would be in line to recommend a local H-overlay to you and City Council within
those properties (305, 309, 315, and 323 Chihuahua). The City would not
proceed with the contracts of sale for the properties at 305, 309, 315, and 323
Chihuahua as mentioned, due to a lack of public purpose. The properties will be
left in private ownership and under our code, the property owners could come
and pull demolition permits.
215 Paisano (adjacent to the Trost Fire House)– If included in the MPC footprint
and with demolition of the warehouse, the City could move ahead with the
inclusion of the property in the local H-overlay expanding the footprint of the
Historic District. This would ensure any future use of the property is in
conformance with the Historic District and more importantly that it does not
detrimentally impact the Trost Fire House.
325 Santa Fe (adjacent to the Trost Fire House)– With their agreement of the
inclusion of the property into the MPC footprint, the City would move ahead
with the demolition of the existing small structure (80% of the property is a
parking lot). The City could include this property into the local H-overlay to
expand the Historic District. This would ensure any future use of the property is
in conformance with the Historic District and more importantly that it does not
detrimentally impact the Trost Fire House.

Trost Fire House – The City could include this in the local H-overlay and proceed
with the nomination for a NRHP designation.
• They request the full width of Chihuahua Street to remain open to the public. We do not have
any issue with this request.
• They request that half width of Overland remain open all times for pedestrians and vehicles
during MPC events. Physically, this can be achieved. However, we would still make a
recommendation to close the road to vehicular traffic during MPC events due to public safety
concerns. Given the amount of pedestrians anticipated at MPC events, they will inevitably spill
onto the roadway exposing them and the MPC to public safety threats.
• Mr. Bryan has requested that the City continue to explore options to repair damages to 305, 309
& 315 Chihuahua and 215 Paisano. Notwithstanding the final agreement on 215 Paisano, we
will work with legal to explore avenues to cause the repair of those properties.
• Mr. Bryan has requested that the City pursue a local H-overlay by ordinance for the properties
proposed to be preserved. The City will work with Mr. Bryan and El Paso County to pursue a
NRHP designation, which puts those properties under the HLC review. A local ordinance
imposed H-overlay cannot be implemented without the agreement from the property owners.
If a Third Party is identified, the City can work with them to enact the local H-overlay.
• Mr. Bryan has asked that the City pursue the dismantling of the “Chinese Laundry”. We are in
disagreement with the significance of the building. Our historic preservation experts have
provided information that the building is a tenement space only. In addition and as noted, the
City is financially constrained to spend money only for a public purpose. If a Third Party is
identified, the City can work with them in their efforts to relocate the structure. There are City
incentive policies in place that can help with these efforts in addition to the façade restoration
grant program for Downtown. This is a very important property for Mr. Bryan and we should
make efforts to help them figure out a plan to preserve and move it within the restrictions
established by the law.

We have strenuously accommodated the majority of their requests made of the City. We believe we
have made a recommendation toward a resolution that meets their goals by recommending an
alternative layout that will result in the City spending more money with additional property acquisition
costs. In the spirit of collaboration, we expected Mr. Bryan to put forth funds that will help them meet
their goals and reciprocate our efforts. We hope that they recognize our efforts. If they continue with
their position of not participating financially, we hope that they work with us to find that critical private
investment (Third Party) that will enable the resolution and allow them and us to meet our goals and

Thank you

Sam Rodriguez, P.E., cnu-a, cfm CM

City Engineer