Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Demolition Denied for Downtown Trost Building (Update: Approved by Council)

Update: City Council voted at its November 13, 2012, meeting to approve the demolition of the Muir Building, overriding the HLC's original decision. The vote was unanimous, though two Council Members were absent.

Original Post: 
The Historic Landmark Commission (HLC) has denied an application to demolish buildings on two parcels on a block near San Jacinto Plaza in downtown El Paso. The owner of a three story building at 230 N. Mesa Street and two smaller buildings at 218-222 N. Mesa would like to construct a brand new development on the properties which are adjacent to each other. The decision was made at the October 22, 2012 meeting of the HLC board. The applicant may now file an appeal directly to the City Council which can override the HLC's decision.

Buildings outlined in blue could be demolished.
The application for demolition was submitted by the Borderplex Community Trust, a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) originally created to facilitate the City's original Downtown 2015 Plan which was announced in 2006. Since then, the REIT has focused on purchasing properties, such as the Wells Fargo and Chase buildings downtown, but has made few moves in terms of revitalization. If approved by the City Council, this would be the first major construction project put forward by Borderplex in El Paso's downtown.

There is some controversy surrounding the possible demolition of one of the buildings, the John T. Muir Building at the 230 N. Mesa location, which most likely caused the denial of the application. The building was designed by renowned El Paso architect Henry Trost and constructed in 1914. The HLC received two letters of opposition from historic preservation groups. Although the Commission stated in the application that the "properties have been so altered that they are no longer the embodiment of distinguished characteristics of an architectural type or specimen; can no longer be identified as the work of an architect or master builder whose individual work has influenced the development of the city; and no longer embody distinguished elements of architectural design, detail, materials or craftsmanship which represent a significant architectural innovation," the letter from the Texas Historical Commission disagreed, stating, "its grandeur is still visible at the third floor terra cotta fa├žade."

Muir Building today (left) and in its original condition.
There are three other properties on the half-block where the development would be located, but it is unclear if Borderplex has made any attempts to acquire those lots. The Tejas Cafe building, located at 204 E. Mills Avenue, was recently purchased by the Lane Gaddy group of investors. On the other side of the block, the Walgreen's building at 200 N. Mesa Street is owned by the University of Texas, and the building at 209 E. Texas Avenue is owned by Billy Abraham. Walgreen's will be vacating this space and moving to a new location on Paisano Drive.

Borderplex has been silent on the proposed development, and no timeline has been given for the project. Borderplex was formed by Bill Sanders, a businessman known for creating REITs. Another Sanders company recently announced plans to purchase a Colorado-based bank.

Related: More Large-Scale Redevelopment Slated for Downtown

Historic Landmark Commission agenda:
Borderplex website:


  1. Do we know how much of the original structure remains behind the facade?

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  3. This story started off in October 24 2012! the Muir building no longer stands today, and Borderplex has leased the vacant property to the owners of Park Tavern
    restaurant for approximately 4 years!Eventually Borderplex wants to develop the property into a multi-story building yet they didn't indicate what they would build. Since October 24 2012, the Quality of Life bond issue was passed, the downtown revitalization has pick up some speed. With a new state of the art triple A baseball stadium called Southwest University Park, home the the El Paso Chihuahuas baseball team.Union Bank has converted an old two level parking
    structure into a modern four story bank building.El Paso received $97 million for restoration of electric street car service which will be coming back to life in late 2018.The last of the highrises in downtown El Paso the nine story Courtyard hotel will open sometime in late October 2017,and a new downtown arena is in jeopardy and probably never be built.Five years ago things were looking up pretty good in El Paso, president Obama had just won reelection.
    But now we have donald trump and things are starting to slow down with many stores closing and Sunland Park Mall looks like it's going to tank before long.
    Also Cielo Vista Mall has stalled with it's plans to expand the mall and probably won't proceed.As for Borderplex, don't count on them building anything same goes for the Hunt Corporation with their new downtown offices.
    Paul Foster just sold Western Refining and what use to be El Paso's biggest banking facility El Paso National bank dwindled down to a Chase Bank that will be relocating into the bottom floor of the Mills Building.