Here’s how you hyper-vitalize downtown El Paso, and develop its reputation as the coolest city in the Southwest:
Buy the Gateway Hotel. Turn it into a boutique hotel, a la the Ace Hotels in New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, and London, et al. Install a hotel bar. Keep it affordable, and keep it exclusive by relying on word-of-mouth advertising.
Put another bar on South El Paso Street within easy staggering distance to Bowie Feather/Tricky Falls and Sparrows. One more bar in a half a block and you’ve created a certifiable entertainment district.
Convert the old Hotel Lenox into apartments. (I mean, I don’t know what’s up there, but the signs says Hotel Lenox, so presumably, there’s something.) Also, put apartments in all the old buildings downtown that don’t have any economically viable use above the first floor. Start the rents cheap and gradually raise them till you’re at 90+ percent occupancy.
The problem with high-rise condo towers downtown, like the downtown developers were proposing for the Plaza Hotel and Bassett Tower, is that it skips a step. There’s currently no demand for high dollar housing downtown. You have to create demand, by making downtown a place where people want to live. You do that by building features that people want to live close to. But those features aren’t viable without priming the pump. You prime the pump by encouraging people to live downtown. You start small, and let growth happen.
That’s how Austin grew organically, and Austin had probably close to a hundred thousand college students before 6th Street took off. That, and well paying industry. El Paso may never have all the advantages that Austin had. But for sure we don’t have them today.
Don’t let misguided bureaucrats create any more dead zones by introducing public facilities that are only going to get used part of the time. No museums, no arenas, no parking lots. Pay the contractors, politicians, and city staff the overcharges and kickbacks they were going to get anyway. It’ll be cheaper in the long run, and everyone will be better off.
And let me get my beak wet a little, too. After all, it was my idea.