The Kress building in downtown will become a food hall and event center

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The historic former Kress department store building in downtown El Paso will be reborn as a food hall under plans announced Tuesday.

It will also have a second-floor events center and a basement spa connected by tunnel to the nearby Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park.

Renovation of the long-vacant 84-year-old building, with its distinctive art deco exterior, is expected to begin in June or July and take around two years.

The project will cost about $18.4 million, including about $3 million to build a tunnel under the narrow Oregon Street, according to information presented to the city council.

City Council on Tuesday approved granting up to $2.05 million in municipal tax refunds over 20 years to a company operated by the El Paso billionaire Paul Foster, building owner a little over three years. The rebates are to help pay for the renovation.

The El Paso Times reported the first details of the renovation plans in Marchwhen the city council gave the green light to city staff to negotiate a profit-sharing agreement.

The El Paso County Commissioners Court in March approved the awarding of county property tax rebates of up to $414,894 over 10 years for the renovation.

Mayor Oscar Leeser and other city council members recounted fond memories they and their families have of the former Kress department store as they praised the renovation project before approving the tax incentives at the council meeting of Tuesday.

Leeser said recreating the Kress Building will help other generations cherish fond memories of the iconic building, but more importantly, he said, investments in the downtown area “energize our entire community.”

The building at Mills Avenue and Oregon Street sits on the edge of San Jacinto Plaza and across from two other renovated Foster buildings.

It was completed in 1938 and underwent an extensive interior renovation in 1955, according to an architect’s report written for federal and state historic tax credit claims.

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Foster, along with his wife and daughter, came up with the idea of ​​turning the Kress building into what will likely be El Paso’s first food hall, a concept popular in other cities, said William Kell, director of operating Franklin Mountain Investments, Foster’s company doing the Restoration.

The food hall will feature local food offerings without national franchise brands, Kell said ahead of Tuesday’s announcement.

William Kell, chief operating officer of Franklin Mountain Investments, stands outside the Kress building in the middle in downtown El Paso on April 22.  Kell oversees the real estate projects of businessman Paul Foster, who plans to renovate the Kress building into a food hall, events center, and spa.

“We are in the process of reaching out to the local community to determine who is interested in being in the food hall,” Kell said. “We will select promising suppliers who are promising and willing to further develop their product.”

The food hall, which will be located on the ground floor of the 15,000-square-foot building, will likely have about 12 food vendors, each in separate stations, interspersed with small local retail vendors, he said. declared.

A key element of the long-closed store will be renovated or replaced: a lunch counter with a soda fountain. It seems to have been modified by the interior renovation of 1955, according to the architect’s report.

Businessman Paul Foster plans to renovate the Kress Building in downtown El Paso into a food court, event center and spa.  It is to be connected by tunnel to the nearby Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park in Foster, shown here behind Kress.

“A lot of people have very fond memories of the soda fountain,” Kell said.

It’s run down, beat up, dirty, (with) a lot of ugly, old and very dirty kitchen equipment and stuff like that,” he said. “There might be something we can save.”

If it can’t be saved, a new one will be installed as part of a restaurant-style restaurant, Kell said.

The food hall will also have a bar operated by a Foster company.

The food counter inside the Kress building is to be renovated or replaced and is part of a Food Hall on the ground floor of the downtown building which is to be renovated.

The 15,000 square foot second floor will be an event center with a large flexible hall for various events, ranging from business meetings to weddings. It will also have small private viewing rooms for watching NFL games and other things, Kell said. It will also have a play area, similar to Dave & Buster’s but on a smaller scale, he said.

The 15,000 square foot basement will be a spa and salon linked to Foster’s neighboring Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park. It will be open to the public, but accessible through the hotel, Kell said.

Part of the ground floor of the old, long-vacant Kress department store building in downtown El Paso, which is to be converted into a food hall as part of an 18, $4 million.

The interior of the building is mostly empty with only a few architectural touches that will likely be restored, Kell said. This includes original marble terrazzo floors, ceilings adorned with plaster moldings, much of which has been damaged by a roof that has leaked for years under previous ownerembossed Kress logos on some walls and some features around entrances.

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The exterior of the building, most of which is clad in cream-colored glazed terracotta, with a distinctive corner tower, will remain intact except for additional cleaning and some repairs, Kell said. The exterior had its first cleaning about a year ago. The Kress panels on three sides of the L-shaped building will also remain.

“We will of course try to do what we can to restore and preserve all historic elements,” Kell said. Which historic pieces should be saved will be determined by state and federal agencies involved in providing historic tax credits for renovations, he said.

The Kress Building has received preliminary approval to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Kell said.

Vic Kolenc can be reached at 546-6421; [email protected]; @vickolenc on Twitter.

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