El Paso Mexican American Cultural Center

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A view of Barrio Duranguito through the lens of a drone.A visual tour using a drone of historic Mexican-American Barrio Duranguito in El Paso, TexasOmar Ornelas, El Paso Times

The long-delayed project to put a new El Paso Mexican American Cultural Center in part of the Main Public Library Downtown will begin construction in the coming weeks.

That comes after El Paso City Council this week approved a $22.55 million construction contract with Sundt Construction, a Phoenix-area based general contractor.

The Downtown library will be renovated as part of the project, which will cost $25.3 million when design costs are included. That’s $7.3 million more than the original $18 million cost because the scope of the project increased, city officials reported.

Construction is expected to be completed in summer 2023.

The library building is at 501 N. Oregon St., and Franklin Avenue, near the El Paso Museum of History and Southwest University Park.

The project includes separate entrances for the Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC) and the Downtown library, which will have a glass cube atrium entrance.

A renovated Cleveland Square will tie into the MACC with an amphitheater and monument to the men of Company E, the only Mexican-American infantry unit that fought in World War II.

Most City Council members talked glowingly about the project before approving the construction contract at a Monday work session.

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West-Central City Rep. Alexsandra Annello was the only council member to vote against it. She said the more than $5 million being spent for renovating the library could be better spent elsewhere in the city.

"As beautiful as the (library) glass entrance is, it's not responsible spending," she said during the meeting.

The idea of putting the MACC in the library building drew opposition when the plan was unveiled in 2018 by city officials. The plan came after a private group failed to raise enough money to put the center at the Abraham Chavez Theatre next to the El Paso convention center. A library group also had opposed the plan.

City Council members and city officials said the project now has support from people who had opposed it. No one spoke against the project during City Council's work session.

However, Jud Burgess, an El Paso advocate who made an unsuccessful run for City Council in 2017, spoke against the MACC/library project at City Council's regular meeting Tuesday. He has opposed the project since its inception.

The city deserves a stand-alone, "world class" Mexican American Cultural Center, and not the "stale crumbs" the city is giving the Latino community with this project, Burgess said.

The construction costs break down to: The MACC, $13.24 million; library renovation, $5.14 million; renovation of the adjacent Cleveland Square park, $2.07 million; $1.5 million for furniture; and $600,000 construction contingency fund, according to city information presented to City Council.

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The project is being funded with $7.25 million from the 2012 quality of life bond issue approved by voters; $10.75 million from recently approved certificates of obligation; and $7.32 million in savings from other projects and on interest savings for previously issued certificates of obligation and municipal bonds.

Vic Kolenc may be reached at 546-6421; vkolenc@elpasotimes.com@vickolenc on Twitter.

Source : https://www.elpasotimes.com/story/news/2021/09/14/el-paso-mexican-american-cultural-center-and-library-set-for-construction/8339640002/

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