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Sunday, March 16, 2014 - 11:00pm
El Paso, TX (KDBC) — This week's closure of the Gateway Hotel is raising some new concerns for Downtown El Paso. Some are pointing out that it's not the only building in dire need of repair.
The boarded up windows of the American Furniture building doesn't share much of what's inside but the exterior leaves a bitter impression on El Pasoans like Fermin Espinoza."Downtown is nothing compared to what it was ten years ago,” Espinoza says.
And it's not just how it looks -- it's the potential hazards inside that concerns residents.
"A tiny spark can burn down an entire building so electrical is always one of the things we're trying to keep an eye on,” Assistant Fire Chief Calvin Shanks explains.
The El Paso Assistant Fire Chief says their department conducts annual inspections to ensure everyone's safety. "Again, our goal isn't to put businesses out of business. But just to make sure that they're safe."
It's a lesson that was learned the hard way. When the historic downtown Hardin buiding was reduced to ashes two years ago.
While open businesses receive regular inspections, vacant ones don't.
But fire officials say they make sure they're safe. "If it's secured, no electrical power then it's as safe as you can make it for nobody being in there."
Real Estate Broker David Etzold hopes vacant buildings can become great businesses but adds it will take the right kind of investment. "If they really believe in downtown they have to show us their checkbook,” Etzold exclaims.
The 2012 Downtown Risk Assessment report is attached.