Texas Tech College of Architecture Gets Space at Union Depot

The El Paso City Council claimed another victory for Downtown revitalization on Tuesday.

The council, holding its first meeting in the new City Hall, unanimously approved leasing a part of the historic Union Depot to the Texas Tech College of Architecture. Both city and school officials called the deal a “win-win” that will put about 500 additional people Downtown while allowing students to be in the heart of redevelopment and to study in a building on the National Register of Historic Places.

City Rep. Steve Ortega was credited with the idea after he called the school’s director, Robert Gonzalez, in 2011.

“This is just great for Downtown,” city Rep. Susie Byrd said. “It gets more traffic in the area, which will only create more businesses. I think it fits in to our plans for Downtown and shows we’re on the right track.”

The school will have a $1 lease per year on the building — a standard rate for nonprofit organizations, according to city officials — and its maintenance costs will be capped at $100,000 a year.

The school, currently located at El Paso Community College off Viscount Boulevard, will partly move into Union Depot, 700 San Francisco, starting in June and will eventually occupy 16,000 square feet. It will take the place of Sun Metro, which is moving into a new building near Montana Avenue and Global Reach Drive.

Gonzalez called the location ideal as he looks to expand the program. He is now working on a partnership with a school in Juárez and adding a certificate in historic preservation.

The extra space will allow the school to double in size and to use the city as a classroom, Gonzalez added.

Union Depot was designed by renowned architect Daniel Burnham, who also did projects in Chicago and Washington, D.C. The building has inspired the design of the new Downtown ballpark, while many new businesses have opened in recent years in what is now called the Union Depot Entertainment District.

Other buildings in Downtown, such as the Cortez and Mills buildings, also have undergone renovations.

“I can’t think of a better recruiting pitch than to come study architecture in a building on a national registry and then walk a few steps out and be able to look at new design, redevelopment and preservation projects,” Gonzalez said.

Ortega added that the additional people Downtown will inspire cafes, coffee shops and small businesses, encouraging more people to come and possibly live Downtown. Gonzalez said the school is considering investing in dormitories nearby.

Amtrak will continue to operate at the building.

Evan Mohl may be reached at emohl@elpasotimes.com; 546-6381.

Original news release from El Paso Times