UPDATE, Jan. 22: An El Paso attorney maintained Friday that plans to have a historic district downtown that includes the Duranguito neighborhood are now effectively dead since a majority of property owners in the area have come out in opposition to it.
Mark Osborn of the Kemp Smith law firm represents (on an unpaid, pro bono basis) numerous downtown property owners who say they weren't consulted about the proposed district, and he claims that state historical officials were misled into believing there was no one opposed.
Osborn told ABC-7 that the federal regulation governing the creation of historic districts says one cannot occur if more than half of the property owners oppose the plan, which is the case in this instance with over 100 signing written objections that have been submitted to state and federal officials.
He said the property owners are worried that being part of the district would subject them to added city rules when it comes to any renovation work on their buildings.
While Osborn has personally litigated alongside the City of El Paso in the controversial fight to build a multi-purpose arena in Duranguito, he insisted he does not represent the city in this effort involving the historic district.
"Everybody has their own opinion about Duranguito, but collectively, that's not the issue the property owners care about," Osborn said.
ORIGINAL REPORT, Jan. 16: AUSTIN, Texas – Downtown El Paso, including the Duranguito neighborhood, has moved a step closer toward gaining a special federal historic designation.
On Saturday, the State Board of Review for the Texas Historical Commission voted unanimously to recommend downtown El Paso to become part of the National Register of Historic Places.
The area being endorsed by the panel consists of 143 acres and includes 174 buildings that would be considered historic and 72 that aren’t considered historic.
The historic area's boundaries would include El Paso’s Central Business District and the Duranguito neighborhood.
Duranguito has been the subject of ongoing controversy, debate and lawsuits for years over the City of El Paso's plans to build an arena there. Former Mayor Dee Margo had lobbied to keep Duranguito out of the proposed historic district, while new Mayor Oscar Leeser has signaled the arena is not a priority item on his agenda.
The historical designation, if achieved however, would not put any limitation on property owners, said Chris Florance, a spokesman for the Texas Historical Commission. The primary benefit is it makes property potentially eligible for federal tax credits, he said.
Florance said the next step is to send the recommendation on to the state historic preservation officer and executive director of the Texas Historical Commission, Mark Wolfe. Wolfe will then have 45 days to either send the recommendation onward to the National Parks Service or reject it.