After several years of discussion and an ongoing search for a site, plans have now been announced for the construction of the new Mexican-American Cultural Center in downtown El Paso.
The structure will be built into and as a part of the Main Library of the El Paso Public Library system at 501 N. Oregon and is expected to cost just over $15 million to complete.
Just under $6 million in funding for the project is coming from the city’s Quality of Life Bonds, which were approved by El Paso voters six years ago.
The additional $15 million has been approved by the El Paso City Council, and will come out of the city’s general fund.
Although supporters of the new center had originally wanted to see it housed inside a refurbished Abraham Chavez Theater, city officials saw the library location as more cost-effective.
According to a document prepared by city staff, the new site will have twice the square footage as the Chavez facility, and has the additional benefit of having “no code issues, no need to acquire land, and with major utilities already budgeted.”
The new facility will carve out 40,000 square feet from the library’s 100,000 square feet, adapting for a new use a section of the building that was added onto the main structure just over a decade ago.
Opponents of the plan criticized the idea from two directions: some said the loss of the 40,000 square feet would take away needed space from the library, while others said the lack of having a free-standing building for the Mexican-American Cultural Center would serve to dilute its mission.
Ultimately, the council voted 7 to 1 to approve the project. Actual renovation and construction could begin next year, with an anticipated 2022 opening.
By Garry Boulard
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