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Approval of HUD funding clears the way for redevelopment of property destroyed by fire

ABC-7 has learned the group that owns a building destroyed by a fire plans to use Housing and Urban Development funds to redevelop the property.

Central El Paso resident Lydia Flores told ABC-7 she is concerned the rubble on the 100 block of Raynor is still in place more than two years after the fire.

“This building is right behind Beall Elementary school and is also a safety concern. I was wondering why nothing has been done to clean up this eyesore. Children can get hurt,” Flores said.

The building, deemed a total loss, looks very similar to how it did in the aftermath of the November 2014 blaze. “It’s the responsibility of the owner to secure the property,” El Paso Fire Department Spokesman Carlos Briano said.

ABC-7 spoke with the owners of the property, Project Vida, a community improvement group that bought the property shortly before the fire. Co-director Bill Schlesinger said his group’s hands were tied when it came to renovating the property.

“What we’ve done is to secure the building and to keep working with the city to respond to Housing and Urban Development,” Schlesinger said.

The group plans to transform the property into 10 three-bedroom units as affordable housing for low and moderate-income families.

“HUD made it clear that any action on the property prior to the release of funds would invalidate the entire agreement,” Schlesinger said.

A review of the environmental conditions around the property is complete and the $1.3 million for the project has been released. Schlesinger said that means the project can now move forward, starting with asbestos abatement, then demolition.

If you have any concerns about burned, damaged or otherwise nuisance buildings in your neighborhood, you’re asked to call the city of El Paso at 3-1-1. A city spokesman said the complaint will then be evaluated and sent to the appropriate department for any action.

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