A two-story brick building in downtown El Paso, that for some 90 years served as the home to a J.C. Penney department store, is on the verge of being readapted for a new use by a local real estate investor.
Michael Johnson, owner of the El Paso-based MJ Real Properties, has purchased the Penney’s building at 325 E. San Antonio Avenue with the intention of bringing the property back to life.
The Plano, Texas-based Penney’s chain closed the El Paso store in the summer of 2017 as part of a larger national effort seeing some 140 of its more than 1,000 outlets put out of business.
In a continued cost-cutting effort, Penney’s last month announced the closing of an additional 27 stores.
Johnson has said that he may build a dozen or so loft-style apartments at the former Penney’s site, while also refurbishing the building’s façade.
Giant cement slabs that were added in later decades in an attempt to give the store a modern look will be removed, revealing the building’s brick exterior, and emphasizing its large front bay windows, which will shaded by wrap-around metal awnings.
The structure’s exterior work is partly being funded through a grant from the El Paso Downtown Management District’s Commercial Façade Improvement Program.
The total cost of the exterior project is estimated at just over $86,000.
The Penney’s chain was launched in 1902 and for decades was known for its wide variety of work clothing and shoes, as well as home furnishings and accessories.
In the wake of the chain’s outlet closings, other retailers have moved in to repurpose those vacant Penney’s store.
The Rochester, New York-based grocery chain Wegmann’s has reconverted a former Penney’s store in Natick, Massachusetts; while Home Décor Superstores of Plano, Texas has done the same with a one-time Penney’s outlet in Longmont, Colorado.
By Garry Boulard
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