EL PASO, Texas – The iconic blue flame was reignited in Downtown El Paso Wednesday morning to shine a light on the redevelopment of the building on which it sits.
The building, located at the corner of Stanton and Texas, will be remodeled into the city’s first high-rise residential development in the downtown area.
It will be 18 stories with the first floor dedicated to commercial space, and the remaining floors for 180 units: 120 affordable housing units, and 30 market-rate living spaces.
"We’re going to have to gut the entire building," said Gerald Cichon, CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of El Paso. "Everything that was here from 1953 is so outdated, it’s just not really practical to keep it anymore."
The Blue Flame Building was originally built in 1954 as the official headquarters to the now-Houston based El Paso Natural Gas Company. The building was vacated in 1986 when EPNG relocated to Colorado.
The Blue Flame will be lit at dusk each night until construction begins in February 2018. When the residential high-rise is completed, the housing authority will unveil a "revived Blue Flame."
The cost of the project is approximately $40 Million, per a news release. In July 2017, the housing authority received a $15 million tax credit award from Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for the redevelopment of the building. The housing authority is currently pursuing both federal and state historic tax credits that could net an additional $8 million in tax credits.
Other renovations in the downtown are are are also underway. The Savoy Lofts opened earlier this year and Bassett Tower is getting a revamp.
"To have a thriving downtown you have to have a residential component," Cichon said.
All of the construction is to pave the way for the city’s Historic Downtown Redevelopment Effort.
"This is really a beacon to the American dream," said Cichon. "It’s a beacon of hope, and as that is lit it’s going to make sure that we’re here to take care of those less fortunate as they pull themselves up from economic challenges."