|By Marty Schladen, El Paso Times,
TexasMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 22, 2011--The City Council on Tuesday unanimously reversed the city's Historic Landmark Commission and approved the redevelopment of a Downtown Building as a 44-room hotel.
The 1915 Rogers Furniture Building at 209 N. Stanton St. will be redeveloped as a high-end hotel, said Miguel Fernandez Jr., one of the developers.
The building will preserve some historic features, but it will have more glass than the original.
"We're not looking at taking away from the building," said Fernandez, who explained that he and his partners are trying to fill a need for a high-end Downtown hotel.
The developers would not yet discuss details of the project.
The Historic Landmark Commission last week voted 4-3 to deny a certificate of appropriateness for the plan. Among the reasons was that the redevelopment would render the building ineligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Members of the City Council said strict adherence to historic preservation should not stand in the way of high-end redevelopment of buildings Downtown, where many have long been empty and 65 percent are considered blighted.
"We've got buildings that are owned by certain individuals who are doing absolutely nothing to improve them," said city Rep. Carl Robinson.
City Rep. Steve Ortega said other than The Percolator coffee shop, there is nothing in the block where the old Rogers Furniture Building is located.
"Otherwise, that block is an embarrassment," Ortega said.
It's unclear when work
on the hotel will begin.
The city hopes Fernandez finds success more like the DoubleTree Hotel than the Artisan. In the last several years, few hotel ventures Downtown have survived despite an El Paso hotel occupancy of 66.2 percent in 2010, according to data from STR, a Tennessee company that tracks hotel data worldwide.
Douglas Da Silva, a Las Vegas hotel operator, bought the long-vacant Artisan building, 325 N. Kansas, in 2006 for $1.6 million. He did extensive renovations and opened 73 of the hotel's 105 rooms for a rocky five months last year before closing it.
On the other hand, Jim Scherr, an El Paso lawyer and property owner, is among the successes.
Scherr, who opened the DoubleTree Hotel in March 2009, has seen his 17-story, 200-room hotel become one of the top revenue makers for El Paso hotels, according to El Paso Hotel-Motel Association. From January-September 2010, it earned $4.18 million.
Ortega said that Fernandez and his partners have a record of completing quality projects Downtown. They redeveloped the Sotoa Lofts Building at 500 W. Overland St., which now houses a number of high-tech companies.
Marty Schladen may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6127.
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