At the start of each new year, I often summarize the amazing progress our Downtown has made over the previous twelve months, listing the new businesses, building renovations and events that have contributed to the ongoing redevelopment of the heart of the city.
2019 was no different in that regard. But last year, more than any time in recent history, Downtown served as an important gathering place for El Pasoans. Following recent tragedies, Downtown was a key area that helped celebrate the importance of people and honored our city’s great sense of community.
Once again, the holiday season brought huge crowds to Downtown. Among the city of El Paso’s impressive holiday displays, the festive programming and the thousands of twinkling lights was a true and tangible sense of unity. Winterfest and the Celebration of Lights, with our resurging Downtown as the backdrop, gave us an opportunity to come together, and to celebrate not only the holiday season but also who we are as a community.
The holiday season wasn’t the only time our community gathered in Downtown. From the raucous crowds of Neon Desert, the fun of Chalk the Block and the excitement of the Triple-A All-Star game to the political marches making statements about immigration policies and the solemn services at Southwest University Park following our city’s darkest hour, Downtown is where we came together.
For far too long, El Paso residents didn’t gather Downtown. There was nothing to do and no place to go. Times have changed and keep changing, and Downtown is now a place of activity, fun, excitement and most importantly community.
It’s not the room in the house with white carpet that nobody can go into. Public and private investments, small businesses and great event venues have made Downtown into the community’s well-used living room – the place we are most comfortable, where we can share laughter and tears and where we can feel most at home.
Rather than read about the progress we’re making Downtown, I encourage you to see for yourself the historic transformation we are experiencing. Join us to celebrate our community, and help fuel this great momentum. After all, Downtown El Paso is your Downtown. Be proud of who we are – and also what we are becoming.
Joe Gudenrath is the executive director of the Downtown Management District, a quasi-governmental entity governed by Downtown business and property owners that works to improve the Downtown area.