Pedro Ayala Shares McAllen Commission’s July 2016 Meeting Presentation Report.

Public Comment Meeting Notes: Monday July 25, 2016 at 8:00pm by Pedro Ayala, Urban Designer/BUILD (210) 514-2955 thepgaclub@gmail.com

The meeting was positive. I expressed to the Mayor, Jim Darling, City Manager Roy Rodriguez, Commissioner Richard Cortez (former Mayor), Commissioner John Ingram (Civic Center District 5 rep) Attorney Kevin Pagan that the Texas Historical Commission has determined that the McAllen Civic Center is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Federal, State and Local Tax credits are available. I brought a book with me that illustrates the Iconic McAllen Civic Center. Mayor Jim Darling looked curious to know more about it. The book is Buildings of Texas, Central, South and Gulf Coast by Gerald Moorhead. with James W. Steely, W. Dwayne Jones, Anna Mod, John C. Ferguson, Cheryl Caldwell Ferguson, Mario L. Sánchez, and Stephen Fox University of Virginia Press.

The purpose of the public comment was to express our concerns about demolition and that we support of McAllen’s Historic Preservation efforts and feel that the McAllen Civic Center merits the opportunity to explore historic preservation efforts as well and that we would be happy to consult with the owners to help explore various options in a workshop that would help ensure the preservation of this remarkable building. We expressed that although McAllen has seen some other significant buildings demolished, that McAllen also has a history of preserving and repurposing historical buildings such as the following:

1. the Casa de Palmas Spanish colonial Hotel (preserved, restored)

2. Quinta Mazatlan and landscape gardens (rehabilitated and repurposed)

3. the former Southern Pacific Railway Station (rehabilitated and repurposed into a law office)

4. the former-US Post Office Spanish colonial (rehabilitated and repurposed into a Cultural Heritage Center)

5. the Old Main Library built in 1954 (repurposed into the McAllen Creative Incubator)

6. an old Walmart turned new Library (although not historical but the attitude taken to repurpose has won a national AIA award and keeps bringing McAllen to the spotlight.

7. and finally the historic Guerra St. otherwise known as S. 17th Street many buildings preserved, rehabilitated, repurposed, recycled and/or given new life – like the Patio on Guerra Restaurant/Bar (former grocery store), Historic Cine El Rey 1947 and other historic buildings that have created value, cultural and entertainment diversity as well as economic development. I praised commissioner John Ingram for voting against the demolition of the old Central Fire Station and hope that the rest of the commission joins him in this attitude of trying to preserve another landmark. I know McAllen can continue moving forward with civic responsibility as demonstrated in these efforts to preserve and restore McAllen’s historic resources.

I offered a few ideas that have been brainstormed by petitioners from www.change.org Preserve McAllen’s Civic Center: Integrate not Distintegrate Initial Ideas from petitioners –

1. Programmatically it makes sense to re-purpose the auditorium into a modern IMAX theatre with the possibility of partnering with IMAS’ Smithsonian Institute.

2. Programmatically it makes sense to breathe new life into it as an alternative late night music venue for live bands or amplified concert destination in keeping with a night life and regional destination.

3. Possibly parts of the old exhibit hall can be turned into apartment/lofts/hotel space for families coming from out of town to shop at La Plaza Mall. After shopping hours they could attend events or IMAX movies in the auditorium

4. A Blue Star Arts Complex type destination still with high-end retail, restaurants, bars, arts, living and studio spaces as well as hotel, theatre and parking garages.

5. Integrate existing Auditorium into the 7 acres of surface parking that is available for Mixed-Use Development.

6. The gaming industry continues to grow. Possibly introduce a gaming and entertainment theme tied to the Comicon aficionados.

7. Incorporate an international conglomerate arts & culture given the growth in consulates from central America and the Philippines where they could display international shows. These are just some ideas that we offer in beginning a workshop. We simply ask that they include us in the next City of McAllen agenda of Monday August 8, 2016 for a pause in the process, schedule a workshop and show the developer that we are solutions oriented.

I got the impression that they appreciated our passion for our city, its history and cultural resources. Commissioner Richard Cortez applauded our professionalism, passion and respectful demeanor. He thanked us for caring. I spoke to Mayor Jim Darling after the meeting and he indicated that he would express to the developers our petition for a workshop. The Texas Historical Commission encourages the developers to consider taking advantage of State and Federal preservation tax credits to rehabilitate the building. THC staff would be happy to consult with the owners to help explore various options that would help ensure the preservation of this remarkable building.

Supporters at the meeting:

Pedro Ayala, Presenter

Virginia Haynie Gause, Texas Historical Commission

Leila Bird, Realtor Bryan Cook, Developer

Manuel Hinojosa, FAIA Architect & LRGVAIA Board President

Artist Eileen & Dr. Marc Berger Rolando Ayala, Engineer/Texas A&M Club

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