El Paso City Council voted 8-0 today to clear the way for demolition of the Henry Trost-designed Union Bank Building located on San Antonio Street, overturning an earlier decision by the Historic Landmark Commission to deny demolition.
The building, located next to the law offices of John Wesley Hardin that burned down last April, is the second Trost-designed building in Downtown El Paso to be cleared for demolition in the past five weeks.
City Planner Matt McElroy said a tour of the building last week revealed that portions of the Western wall, exposed by the fire, contains several voids. McElroy said the wall used to be three bricks thick but is now just one brick thick in some areas. That coupled with poor conditions on the interior of the building led city staff to recommend demolition.
The property is owned by River Oaks Properties. The estimated renovation costs of more than $4 million also contributed to the decision.
"It's not habitable, cannot be occupied," City Representative Cortney Niland said before approving demolition. "It seems unreasonable to do anything but grand the appeal."
Opposition came from the County Historical Commission. Dr. Max Grossman, a UTEP professor and member of the commission, urged City Council to at least save the exterior of the building, although the façade has been slightly altered.
"The façade can be saved," Grossman said. "Behind the façade you can do whatever you want."