Editor's note: An earlier version of the story incorrectly reported residents who lived in the buildings had been relocated by the City of El Paso in 2017. The City relocated residents who lived in other buildings along that street. People living at 217 and 219 W. Overland were served eviction notices by the property owner.
EL PASO, Texas -- Just across the street from the area commonly known as Duranguito and a half-mile away from Southwest University Park lie two adjoining properties that squatters have made their own.
The pair of connected buildings are found in the 200 block of W. Overland Avenue in the heart of downtown El Paso; it's an area where many visitors park their cars to attend events. While no crime towards residents has been reported, visitors are advised to beware of the abandoned buildings due to the apparent activity happening inside.
Both buildings have been vacant since the property owner served residents eviction notices in 2017. At the same time, the City of El Paso relocated other residents in nearby properties owned by the City as it prepared to make way for the proposed downtown arena.
ABC-7 toured both buildings on Thursday as the back doors were open, and there appeared to be no "No Trespassing" signs. Once inside, it was clear the buildings had been inhabited by vagrants. The stench of human waste was overpowering, may walls were soiled with feces and buckets were nearly filled to the brim with what appeared to be urine. The buildings themselves were heavily damaged and showed areas of the roof caving in and exposed wires. The dilapidated state of the buildings was clear in every corner: windows are shattered and broken glass lined the floors.
The owner of the buildings, Don Luciano, told ABC-7 that plans to demolish one of the buildings were put on hold after the city took back his demolition permit - and he added that he did not want to spend money on the other building until the city actually begins work on the arena. It is important to note that Luciano sits on the Historic Landmark Commission.
Officials with the City of El Paso, when asked for comment, issued this statement below:
"The property in question is privately owned. The City of El Paso has a vacant building ordinance which establishes the responsibilities of owners of vacant buildings and structures; to ensure that vacant buildings are maintained in compliance with applicable city codes. The City is working with the property owner to bring the building into compliance".
By Friday evening, entrances to the property had been boarded up and a notice indicated the property owner would have 30 days to bring the property into compliance.