While dozens of downtown El Paso buildings are currently in the midst of the largest renovation projects in the history of the city, one building in particular has been rotting for the last decade… and it’s showing no signs of any renovation.
It’s called the Kress building, located at 211 N. Mesa in downtown El Paso. It dates back to 1907, when Kress Department stores opened its first El Paso location, one of hundreds around the country, according the EPCC historical markers project. Kress was a five and dime shop, a type of store that was popular in the United States in the early to mid-20th century. It sold many different items, most of which were worth five or ten cents.
They were known for their ornamented architecture, located on main streets of large cities and small towns. El Paso was no exception. The building was magnificent, overlooking San Jacinto Plaza throughout the years. Fire destroyed parts of the building several times, but it was always rebuilt, even more beautiful each time. The Women’s Department of the El Paso Chamber of Commerce even provided design tips to renowned architect Edward F. Sibbert. The store was designed with regional architecture in mind, such as desert plants on the doors, indian artwork on the walls, Mexican tiles, and even a bell tower, which resembles the Socorro Mission. The El Paso store was the only location in the nation with three entrances and exits on three different streets. It was the number one store in sales.
Kress department stores closed for business in 1980 and was sold to McCrory Stores, which closed in 1992. The building was then used for various local restaurants and small businesses. It closed in 2006 and never opened its doors since. The buildings owner, Billy Abraham hasn’t done much with the property. The city of El Paso has attempted to help restore the building, but according to the city, Abraham has not cooperated. In 2012 the city apparently tried to purchase the building to relocate city hall, but Abraham said it was not for sale. Today, Abraham sits in state prison for hitting and killing a man while driving drunk, and then leaving the scene. He was scheduled to be released from prison in January 28, 2016, however the projected date has changed to March 13, 2017 for unknown reasons.
In San Antonio, the Kress building sits in the center of town, renovated. A popular Brazilian steakhouse is the main attraction on the ground floor. (See photo on left.) Many other cities have done the same.
Back to El Paso, the Kress building sits in the heart of town, rotting, while dozens of redevelopment projects are underway around it. The Kress building is located directly across from the newly redesigned San Jacinto Plaza. The Plaza hotel, which is right next door will begin construction in a year and the Mills building across the street is nearly at capacity. What will it take to get this building back to its old glory?
It’s time to pressure Billy Abraham and the city of El Paso to come up with a plan for this building before it is too late.
What to do:
Mail Billy Abraham
Abraham, William David, 03135479
Cleveland Correctional Center
P.O. Box 1678
Cleveland, TX 77328
Contact City of El Paso
Email Mayor Lesser: firstname.lastname@example.org
Downtown Rep Niland: email@example.com