El Paso City Council members have approved spending more than a million dollars to renovate the 17th floor of the historic ‘Blue Flame’ building. City representatives said the goal is to add office meeting space and get more civic engagement. The city said tax dollars are not being used for the renovation.
According to city staff, the city has a lack of space for civic groups and neighborhood associations to hold meetings. The space will be available for public use, as well as small businesses or nonprofits that need to launch their organization.
The building belongs to the El Paso Public Housing Authority, which is investing tens of millions of dollars into renovations. Rental for the 17th floor is around $5 a square foot, which comes to around $70,000 a year in rental space. A spokesman for the housing authority said city leaders can also hold special meetings on the 17th floor with a panoramic view as potential voters decide the future of the city.
ABC-7 asked Rep. Cassandra Hernandez where the funding is coming from for the renovations and rent of the office space.
“It’s not tax payer dollars being used, it’s a special revenue source that’s dedicated to empowering El Pasoans. That’s what the space for El Paso civic engagement activity is for,” said Hernandez, representative for District 3. “It’s an empowerment zone revenue source. It is a form of dollars that we get from the federal government. They’re not property tax dollars.”
On Tuesday, City Council approved entering a lease with the Housing Authority for a period of 10 years.