“Lots of Empty Spaces”

Here’s a story from the El Paso Times headlined Downtown El Paso’s vacant buildings await next wave of redevelopment:

Lots of empty spaces.

That’s what a large swath of Downtown El Paso has in plenty.

Many buildings that had retail stores are vacant — many for years. It’s largely the result of a steady decline in shoppers from Mexico. The COVID-19 pandemic also played a part. Downtowns in many large cities are struggling from the aftereffects of the pandemic, researchers have found.

A recent study done for the El Paso Downtown Management District identified 44 buildings that were vacant or not fully occupied in the study’s 18-block target area between Paisano Drive and Mills Avenue.

El Chuqueño has been saying that for years, but I guess it takes a sanctioned study to make it real.

But don’t worry. There’s an answer to the problem.

If Downtown’s residential population can be increased, then some retail spaces could cater to that population as well as repurposing some of the vacant retail spaces for entertainment and other uses, [the Downtown Management District’s executive director Joe] Gudenrath said.

Well, there you have it. All we need is more people living downtown.

Not a Triple A ballpark. Not a children’s museum. Not a downtown arena. Just more people living downtown.

So let’s see. The City has spent hundreds of millions of tax dollars in downtown El Paso, and all we need to do is spend maybe a couple hundred of million more to bring in residents, and we’ll have that thriving downtown the shot-callers have been promising us for the last nearly twenty years.

The question that comes to mind is where are all those residents going to come from? Population growth in El Paso has been stagnant since 2012, but we’re still building out on the fringes. We’re competing with, and losing to, Sunland Park, and Horizon City, and the rest of Texas.

If you build it, they will come only works in the movies.


  1. ANd those new residents will be breathing in all that junk in the air…and where will they buy their groceries? And of course if they want to go anywhere at night, call Uber…no nighttime transport except some nights the trolley up to the Crime District, then call Uber

  2. Did y’all see the recent report (I think it may have been on CBS) that mentioned how San Diego has a thriving downtown? Interesting contrasts to what the fools in charge around here have been pushing for way too long. Yes, more people living downtown would make a difference, but aside from the question of where they would come from, what services are available to them in that area, other than some bars?

  3. Senor Dungan…With all due respects. El Paso will never, well not in our Lifetimes, be one of these current “hip” cities. We’ll not be San Diego, Nor Austin. Not San Antonio. Not Deep Ellum in Dallas. Not Red Hook in Brooklyn. And, add another 20 cities that are currently being gentrified, and you’ll see something we DON’T have…Disposable Income. Unfortunately, we have to look in the mirror and, although it hurts, we must realize we are not a wealthy City, with incredible disposable income. 21% of us live Below the Poverty Line, and the rest are scraping by. I know EX Mayor Dee “Oklahoma” Dee, has said we are a “Muscular City.” Sorry to bust his Anglo Elite Bubble…but just because he has Mexican housemaids and Mexican waiters serving him his dinner UNMASKED during the teeth of the Covid Pandemic, we are just another Border City. I’m all for dialogue, but what Corporations are moving to El Paso? Not Amazon’s warehouse, which would have happened no matter who is, or was in office. This is a pure supply chain logistic move.

    1. Agree re: Margo, but I think you write off El Paso too easily. I’ve traveled a lot in the last 10 years and even the best places have their problems. My personal TOE (Theory-of-Everything) on urban vitality has always come down to two key factors: 1) education level; 2) citizen participation. Both are easily measured by percent of population with a 4-year degree or higher and percent of voter turnout.

      El Paso has improved greatly in education, probably thanks to UTEP’s open enrollment policy, with now about 27% having a bachelors degree or better, still below the national average of 34% but much improved in the last 20 years. Portland, OR, a comparable size city, has 52%. But I recall when El Paso was 15% not that long ago.

      Voter turnout here has always been a problem but that, too, is changing possibly due to younger activists. Just look at the Climate Charter petition that garnered 39,000 validated signatures. Never seen the like of it here! There was 52% turnout in the 2020 election and 33% in 2022. Contrast Portland with 80% in 2020.

      But Portland, for all its TOE advantage, is overwhelmed now with thousands of homeless on the streets and in the parks and escalating crime, so much that retail businesses are closing and leaving. Then, too, for whatever reason, Portland goes batshit crazy every 20 years or so and the young people burn it down.

      We don’t have those problems, even with thousands of migrants coming over the border each month. Give El Paso some credit because no other city in the country has absorbed this level of influx, much less without creating chaos on the streets that we don’t have, even downtown on a Saturday night.

    2. I just want to point out that I was not trying to compare El Paso to other cities, other than to say what I did say. I am very well aware that we will never be anything but a Border City. I did not make reference to gentrification or disposable income. I just said that one city has evidently done well to preserve or re-invigorate its downtown, and it was not accomplished by the kinds of things being tried – without success – here.

  4. Jerry….I am not sure why you are comparing El Paso to Portland, in Rich’s post and my comment. I thought we were talking about lack of people moving downtown. It is also a food desert. You are on this site plenty of times to know that El Paso only grew 4.5% in the last decade while Texas grew around 14.5%. San Antonio actually grew faster than Austin at 17% P.S. I’m 66, sold medical devices for 34 years and have been all over the USA as well. Even was the Corporate sales trainer for Mexico as I am fluent in Spanish, and a Native of El Paso.

  5. Regarding population…at some point the population here will excede the carrying capacity of the river and the acquifer, even if we bring all the water we can from Dell City. The Rio Grande is essentially exhausted already, and agriculture will have to do some serious re-assessing. Would El Paso be a better place with a million people? Two million?
    How about if we develop two or three points of attraction (Albuquerque for example has Old Town as well as Downtown/Central and Uptown, plus the Balloon park area…) People in far east El Paso might not be keen on driving 30 miles to have dinner downtown, why not go to dinner nearby!

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