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Mayor claims major victory in arena battle: ‘About a year away from breaking ground’

The City of El Paso no longer has to provide a 14-day notice to Historian Max Grossman and his attorneys before demolishing buildings in the Duranguito neighborhood and it no longer has to notify Grossman when it issues a demolition permit, the City of El Paso said Wednesday.

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo hailed the new developments as a major victory in the fight against Grossman and those who oppose the demolition of buildings in Duranguito to make room for a new multi-purpose entertainment complex. “We’re ecstatic. This is what we have been saying all along. The frustration is it has cost the taxpayers about $1 million in litigation fees,” Margo said.

The group fighting the City over the arena argues buildings in the Duranguito area should be preserved because of their historical value to El Paso. They also claim historical artifacts are buried underneath some of the buildings.

“What this is is a sequence of battles that the City continues to win. The war is not over, but the battles are being won,” Margo said Wednesday, “Let me reiterate. We have no obligation to notify them of any of the demolitions. We’re allowed to obtain demolition permits and we’re not violating the Texas Antiquities Code. All positive.”

The City said Grossman and his lawyers conceded and agreed to all the City’s requests pending before the 384th District Court in El Paso. The City said the hearing set before the 384th District Court was canceled after Grossman and his lawyers agreed to enter into a Rule 11 agreement, which grants the City everything it was seeking from the court.

The City said its success in negotiating an agreement means Grossman has agreed to dissolve a previously entered order and the City no longer has to provide a 14-day notice prior to demolition of structures with the MPC footprint

“They have agreed that the City of El Paso is not in violation of the Texas Antiquities code and the City is no longer prohibited from demolishing buildings or issuing demolition permits,” the City said in a news release.

The City confirmed it would not begin demolition of the buildings in the arena footprint before November 19, 2018. Margo, however, said the City is moving forward with designs for the arena and estimated the City is “about a year away from breaking ground” on the project.

When asked if this is the end of Grossman’s fight against the City, Margo said, “we have no way of knowing if he has exhausted all of his legal avenues, but we will continue to move forward based on today’s agreement. Today’s agreement is significant.”

The mayor further stated the City’s main concern is the lawsuit prohibiting it from selling naming rights to the arena and designing the arena to accommodate sports.

Grossman filed another lawsuit in Austin, related to the arena project, against the Texas Historic Commission. “It was one more attempt to prevent the construction of the project,” the City said, “The Austin court denied his request for a Temporary Restraining Order against the Texas Historic Commission.”

Grossman said the City’s announcement is “a gross mis-characterization of the current status.” The historian said a temporary injunction hearing will be heard in Austin during the week of November 12.

“The purpose of my lawsuit in Austin is to stop the proposed demolition of buildings in Duranguito by the City before the archeological study has even been started, which would be a violation the Antiquities Code,” the historian said.

Grossman further stated the City hoped to demolish Duranguito soon after October 30, 2018. “Today’s agreement eliminates this imminent threat and permits us to proceed with (the) hearing in Austin,” he said.

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