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Hotel owner served on City Council when City Hall was built; getting ready to see it demolished

By Maria Garcia, MariaG@kvia.com.
Published On: Apr 09 2013 03:54:38 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 10 2013 05:37:39 PM CDT

ABC-7's Darren Hunt speaks with the man in charge of the implosion of El Paso City Hall.

EL PASO -

El Paso's current city hall building has created heated debate since it was first proposed, according to Jim Scherr, owner of the DoubleTree hotel who served on city council when the building was first proposed.

"City hall as controversial from its inception to its demolition... There were concerns about how much money it was going to cost. And what type of obligations the tax-payers would be looking at. It was as controversial as the issue is today," Scherr said.

Scherr served on the council from 1977 to 1983. He was the youngest city representative at 23 years old when he was sworn in.

"I grew up in that building. I knew it from beginning to end. I used to use the phone in the elevators. It was a blast. It's going to hurt seeing some of our past go down in dust but with the past we build on a greater future," he said.

The lawyer and hotel owner has a unique vantage point not only because of his history with the building but also, literally, from the 7th floor terrace of the DoubleTree hotel he owns. "There's not going to be a better location to watch that city hall come down."

The DoubleTree is offering a special package on demolition weekend. Guests can stay the night and see city hall under the moonlight for the very last time after a five-course dinner. They can also order from the regular menu. The next morning, guests can watch the demolition from the hotel terrace or from their rooms and have a champagne brunch. The packages vary from $250 to $300. There will also be live music during dinner and on the terrace.

During an interview on the terrace Thursday, Scherr remembered how divisive the topic of the construction of city hall became.

At the time, the federal government awarded cities Urban Development Action Grants, which were funds meant to spur economic development in urban cores and downtowns.

San Antonio used theirs to expand the Riverwalk. El Paso used its grant on the city hall building.

The original plan included a Hyatt Regency Hotel next to the city hall. The plan was to foster economic growth but private investment for the hotel never came to fruition.

Scherr was the only city rep. to vote against the city hall site and the only one from that council to be re-elected.

He said economic development has always been the goal. That's why he invested in the DoubleTree at at time when not many private investors were putting money in Downtown properties. Yet, he still has fond feelings for the building.

"Demolishing it and putting a ballpark is creating the dream again of what Downtown is and can be and should be. But it hurts to see city hall demolished. When you look at your home and you see it come down in eight seconds, it hurts. I'll probably have a tear in my eye," Scherr said.

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