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Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - 11:59am

Gateway Hotel should be renovated, not demolished, says historical commission

KDBC
Friday, March 14, 2014 - 10:38pm

The Gateway Hotel has been sitting by the corner of Stanton and San Antonio for more than 100 years, and now the place many families have long called home could soon be torn down by the city.

"Demolition seems to be an option that the city throws out every time a building comes up downtown, especially when they've got code violations," said Bernie Sargent, the Chairman of the El Paso Historical Commission.

On Monday, firefighters evacuated everyone living in the 41 units of the Gateway Hotel after inspectors say they discovered problems like carbon monoxide leaks, gas and plumbing issues, and electrical hazards.

"Something new could go up. More business for El Paso," said Danny Camarillo.

"I don't think they should demolish it because they're destroying all the landmarks that we have here in El Paso. As it is, that's an old building and they could probably fix it," said Cindy Torres.

The historical community agrees.

Sargent argues the city shouldn't rush to demolish the hotel.

"There's such a thing, we think, as land blight once these buildings are down. You lose the facade, you lose the heritage of the community," he said.

Sargent says fixing the building up so it doesn't sit empty is the best way to keep history alive while putting it to good use as well.

"...oftentimes, that's far less expensive than demo-ing the whole building," he said.

After all, Sargent says the Gateway Hotel was redesigned by famous Southwest architect Henry Trost in the 1920s, who built El Paso High School, parts of the UTEP campus, and hundreds of other buildings in the city.

"We had over 50 visitors from Tucson travel by train at a modest expense to come over here and see the Trost architecture. It's very well known in that acumen," said Sargent.

But whether it's demolished or renovated, the taxpayer could ultimately foot that bill.

"More cash coming out of our pockets? I don't know about that one," said Torres.

The Gateway Hotel has been at the center of controversy before.

In 2011, the owner of the hotel and 24 other people were convicted in a human smuggling case.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement says they used the hotel to hide illegal immigrants.

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