The second-largest metropolitan statistical area in the Southern United States lies in the West Texas city of El Paso. El Paso has a population nearing 900,000 residents. Unfortunately, like most other large cities El Paso suffered from disinvestment in their downtown communities. This led to a loss of jobs and ultimately decent living conditions in this portion of the city. To date, El Paso has implemented and is about 80% complete with a downtown El Paso revitalization project. The city's leaders and residents recognize the importance of bringing downtown back to life.
Disinvestment is primarily to blame for the erosion of beautiful downtown El Paso Texas. It is an impressive collection of historic buildings and streets and sidewalks the intertwined in the oldest city in the southwest United States. This downtown revitalization project was titled plan El Paso. It was adopted by the city and 2010 with an overall plan of encouraging development within the existing city limits, expand on conservation of environmental resources, spurring economic investment, reducing the cost of providing infrastructure and services, as well as reclaiming abandoned areas. Historical buildings were to be revitalized and once again habitable while still maintaining their historical significance as well as preserving the city's western image. According to our text written by Leigh and Blakely, "In the classical model, the economy is developed by a business-oriented organization that can advocate for the interests of the firms in the region”. (Leigh and Blakely, 2016) They go on to highlight that, “In the New Economy, the community has many organizations representing diverse interests, and only through a collaboration among the organizations is economic development possible” (Leigh, 2016). One particular struggle and faced by the city of El Paso was the fact that although El Pasoans take deep pride in their city and local communities, they realized there was very little interest from outside to invest in the city. Although there was an enormous interest to invest in historic downtown El Paso, new construction was favored by outside investors. This can be contributed to both entrepreneurship as well as globalization in terms of the challenges faced with the revitalization project.
El Paso sought to revitalize downtown in the image of the old, yet ensure that environmental consciousness is taken into account by utilizing green energy and practices. An example of this is stormwater storage facilities which double as a cleaning element for the straits before reaching their storage ponds. El Paso wanted to provide a network of public transportation at an affordable price, with options to choose from. This was to utilize natural gas-powered buses, as well as a new rail system modeled after the 1950s style model. The cost and benefits of how public investments, as well as private investments, would be utilized to stimulate downtown redevelopment raised questions of how this would be distributed in terms of cost. The city's implementation team determined that private investment far outweighed the public investment.
Local planning and implementation of the downtown revitalization project had, and continues to have many ups and downs. Displacement of people and the awarding of contracts to third party companies have caused many within the community to questions whether or not it is worth it. The intended to economic benefits of the project seemed great at first, as it was to bring visitors and inhabitants to downtown El Paso, however, many investors are backing out of projects halfway through causing the city to foot the bill. This underscores the need for better collaborative stewardship. Mcdonald describes collaborative stewardship as “efforts made by individual organizations to work in a coordinated fashion for the accomplishment of a shared vision that promotes life within a community” (McDonald, 2016). Some of these challenges resulted from deteriorated buildings that resulted in many unexpected costs associated with revitalizing historic buildings. Many were thought to be repairable and later proved to need more work than previously thought. A lack of downtown housing limits the activity of downtown particularly near central business districts where outside investment was needed. The considerable vacancy deterred shoppers and investors which was discovered halfway through the project.
The linkages between the private, public and nonprofit sectors continue. Although hiccups have occurred this is allowing the downtown revitalization project to drive on. Private investments include a baseball stadium that now houses a AAA baseball team, served by public parking lots provided by the city. Nonprofit contributions include the El Paso historical society donating the bulk of artistic design to each new project while in the developmental phase. This is just one example of the cooperation required to make this a success. The difference between downtown El Paso in the year 2010, and 2019 is dramatic. There have been issues along the way, but ensuring that the public, private, a nonprofit sector each collaborate and work together in a manner that is productive for the city has completely revitalized downtown. The relation between functional design stated objectives, and sustainability has tied together downtown likenever before. The El Paso Times interviewed Mayor Dee Margo, Margo stated "The revitalization dollars are driven by the projects themselves. what we've done in the way of rebates, it's driven by that particular project," (El Paso Times, 2019).
The city of El Paso has been through a lot over the years. Lately, the city has been all over the news due to the crisis on the southwestern border and a recent mass shooting that took the lives of many innocent people. This downtown revitalization project continues to bring a new sense of hope to the city. Corinthians reminds us “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we receive from God” (2 Cor., English Standard Version ). The downtown revitalization project is not just a beautification effort. It is the preservation of a city's identity.
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