Friday, November 16, 2012

Another Historic Downtown Bldg Could Be Demolished

The owner of the historic Union Bank & Trust Building at 104-106 East San Antonio Avenue in downtown El Paso is requesting a Certificate of Demolition from the City's Historic Landmark Commission (HLC). Next door, the First National Bank Building, which once housed the offices of John Wesley Hardin, burned down in April of 2012.

The applicant, River Oaks Properties, owns both properties and has submitted a report from engineering firm HKN Engineers which states that the two buildings shared a wall and that the earlier fire has caused damage to the surviving building. The report goes on to say that the building is in "imminent risk of structural failure," and that demolition is the suggested option considering the "high cost of structural retrofit."

Despite the engineering report, the agenda item recommends denial of the application, stating, "The property has been altered but it is still the embodiment of distinguished characteristics of an architectural type or specimen; can still be identified as the work of an architect or master builder whose individual work has influenced the development of the city; and still embodies distinguished elements of architectural design, detail, materials or craftsmanship which represent a significant architectural innovation."

The application will be heard at the HLC's November 19, 2012, meeting, less than one week after City Council approved the demolition of the Henry Trost designed Muir Building at 230 N. Mesa Street. That application for demolition was originally denied by the HLC, but Council voted unanimously to override that decision. The property's owner, Borderplex Community Trust, has promised a mixed-use development at the location but has divulged few other details. If River Oaks' application for demolition is denied, they can also appeal directly to the City Council.

Aftermath of destructive fire at the First Nat'l Bank building.
Previously: Demolition Denied for Downtown Trost Building (Update: Approved by Council)

HLC Agenda Item (PDF):