Sunday, April 2, 2017

"All Studies in Last 20 Years Choose Union Plaza for Arena": LIE!

Surely the City of El Paso is Lying

City of El Paso Lie #2: All Studies in Last 20 Years Choose Union Plaza for Arena 
Research DeBunks City of El Paso's Claims

Paso del Sur Posted This on Facebook. Great research and historical incite on how the City of El Paso Lies:

"Don't call me Sherly," says Paso del Sur

It is absolutely not true that 20 years of City-funded studies unanimously concluded that the sports arena must go in Union Plaza/Barrio Duranguito, as City staff and politicos have repeatedly told the press and the public. Of all the falsehoods they've told thus far, this is one of the biggest ones! (See poster below used at the City's "public outreach meetings."). In fact, only 1 of 5 Studies, the Paso del Norte Group Study of 2006, singled out Duranguito/Union Plaza as the supposed "best" location for an arena. One City-funded study recommended that Union Plaza/Duranguito be declared an historic district and be protected from the kind of massive demolition the arena project envisions.
The City has cited four reports as evidence that Duranguito is "the overall best location" for the sports arena (let's start calling it what it actually is). Here are the relevant facts from each of the four studies:
C.H. Johnson Consulting (2001):
After considering several options, the firm concludes that "the best location for a new sports complex and soccer stadium in El Paso is at the [County] Fairgrounds." (p. 69) Another “compelling site,” the 2001 study concluded, was “Cohen Stadium, owned by the City of El Paso.” The study found this to be a good location because of “the required amount of land adjacent to Cohen Stadium for an arena and shared parking” as well as easy access to the Patriot freeway.
To read the 2001 study:…/aren…/2001%20mpc%20study.ashx…

City of El Paso and the Paso del Norte Group Foundation, "Downtown 2015 Plan" (2006):
This study analyzes only two potential sites, the Airport and Union Plaza. It recommends building the arena in the Union Plaza (Duranguito) neighborhood. (pp. 58, 112). The PDNG group was a semi-secretive organization led by several highly-influential binational developers, contractors and real estate speculators including Paul Foster, William Sanders, Woody Hunt, Dee Margo and Alejandra de la Vega that later morphed into the Borderplex Alliance. It received about a quarter million dollars from the City of El Paso to create a plan that envisioned the demolition of 127.5 acres of downtown, South El Paso, and Union Plaza with the threat of eminent domain.

City of El Paso, Texas Comprehensive Plan (2012):
This study considers four possible arena sites (p. 181). The Union Plaza site is among the options cited but there are reservations because the project "would remove blocks of existing infrastructure and building fabric." There is no specific recommendation for the arena location.

Master Planning Report (2015):
This study recommends proceeding with the construction of a "Multi-Purpose Cultural and Performing Arts Center" (note the new nomenclature) but does not cite a specific location within downtown.
In summary, three of the four studies more or less recommend locating the sports arena in downtown; but only one, the 2006 Paso del Norte Group study, specifically recommends placing the arena in the Union Plaza neighborhood. Of course, that study considered only two possible locations, and several of its authors stood to benefit financially from the project--not exactly an objective and impartial analysis.
Note: The majority of the land speculator owners of Barrio Duranguito properties who are eager to sell to the city are members of the PDNG/Borderplex Alliance, including Alejo Restrepo, Dr. Roberto Nassim Assael, Woody Hunt (as well as Hunt's son-in-law, bank executive Peter Spier). The PDNG members who own the majority of the buildings in the "footprint area," began buying their properties at the time PDNG targeted Duranguito for the arena. Woody Hunt and Peter Spier closed the deal on their property three weeks before the City voted unanimously in October 2016 to build the arena in Duranguito.

The Union Plaza Downtown El Paso Development Archeological Project (1998):
The one study within the previous two decades that the City Manager’s report conveniently ignores is the 1998 City-funded survey "The Union Plaza Downtown El Paso Development Archeological Project." This study recommended that Union Plaza/Barrio Duranguito be designated an historic district and thus protected from mass demolition. It was commissioned by the City of El Paso for the Sun Metro Transit Authority and it was carried out by a team of experts led by John A. Peterson, Stephen Mbutu, and Mark D. Willis. The survey found a great number of historic buildings within the demolition zone. Their findings directly contradict City Attorney Silvia Firth's initial public declarations that there is nothing historic there at all.
To read the 1998 City-funded survey:…/uploads/2016/10/079-2000-001…

All of this information definitively contradicts the City’s false assertion that every single study in the last 20 years found that Barrio Duranguito is the best place to build an arena. Perhaps the City Manager and City Attorney were just hoping we never bothered to read those studies.
Of course, the City has failed to carry out any studies that take into consideration other issues beyond financial ones. Most importantly, those related to building an arena in a place that violates the civil and human rights of more than a hundred mostly elderly, lower-income residents who will be displaced by the arena. It has done no medical study of the impact of displacement on the residents' health, for example. Previous studies have consistently shown that forced removal significantly increases mortality rates, especially among the elderly who are forcibly kicked out of their homes. But that's another issue we'll deal with in other posts.