Downtown walkabout…again

I can never get enough of downtown El Paso.  I worked there for 8 years back in the 90’s (!) and many of the now vacant buildings were open, bustling even.  To a 20-something kid, it felt like a lot was going on.  Now, much of downtown looks like this store front:

Much of El Paso’s downtown may be old but it has character.  We don’t have a lot of ultra modern buildings so it’s looked the same for decades. The 00’s were kind of tough on our downtown. The downturn in the economy caused a mass exodus of large businesses, hurting the smaller ones that relied on those workers to be there spending money.  I’m bummed that I can’t develop film at Reeds Camera or have a pitcher at Main Street anymore. There’s no more Bridge Gallery for a nice sandwich and art at lunch.  No more Kress to shop at, grab a taco and your pay bills.

Attempts to revitalize have come and gone and the recent burning of the historically significant, First National Bank building, has renewed interest in improving and enforcing building codes.  Despite some stagnation, there has been progress. The Mills Building has been completely rebuilt from the inside out. Transformed from a brown eyesore, The Mills is the crown jewel on the edge of a burgeoning arts district, complete with its own weekend Art Market.

While I’m nostalgic for some of my old haunts, new businesses have opened and have staked their claim in El Paso’s future.  Restaurants like Kipps Cheesestakes and the Percolator have weathered the tough times. In the case of Kipps, they are actually expanding their business to a new eastside location.  If Hotel Baghdad can been refurbished into a Doubletree, there is hope that something better will rise in the burned out location of the First National Bank building.

You could say our city is in a unique period of change… finally. The recent primary battle between longtime incumbent Silvestre Reyes and challenger Beto O’Rourke may have temporarily divided us, but O’Rourke’s win has signaled a more progressive future.  Our downtown has a front row seat to a new direction and will hopefully be better for it.

More pic’s can be found here: Lunchtime Downtown