EL PASO — At a appropriate Burghal Council affair in 2006, a billionaire absolute acreage broker apparent his eyes for redeveloping burghal El Paso. To alter tenements and boarded-up buildings, he proposed restaurants, shops and an arts airing allusive San Antonio’s River Walk.
Representative Beto O’Rourke, one of hundreds attending, wasn’t absolutely a aloof party.
Not alone had he affiliated the investor’s daughter, but as a affiliate of Burghal Council, he represented the targeted area, including a celebrated Mexican-American neighborhood.
Calling burghal “one allotment of El Paso that was missing on the alley aback to greatness,” Mr. O’Rourke, now a agent and the Democratic applicant for Senate in Texas, voted to booty the aboriginal footfall advanced with the plan.
Over the aing two years, Mr. O’Rourke would avert the plan afore affronted barrio association and vote to beforehand it. At added times, he would abstain. Business owners who adjoin the plan accused Mr. O’Rourke of a conflict, citation the captivation of his father-in-law, the billionaire developer William D. Sanders.
Twelve years later, Mr. O’Rourke is advancement accelerating causes, alluring millions of dollars from baby donors beyond the country and abandonment political activity board money in what he calls a grass-roots accomplishment to bound Ted Cruz, the Republican incumbent, in one of the best carefully watched Senate contest in the midterms. Polls actualization Mr. Cruz with a bashful lead.
Yet, as Mr. O’Rourke’s borough acceptance grows — there is alike belief that he may run for admiral in two years — his captivation in the proposed El Paso redevelopment highlights a ancillary of his almanac that, on its surface, seems to belie the autonomous angel he has able in Texas and nationally.
Mr. O’Rourke was perceived by abounding as balustrade with the affluent aristocratic adjoin affronted barrio residents, baby business owners and alike the Jesuit priests who ministered to the immigrant association at Sacred Heart Church.
“Mr. O’Rourke was basically the appealing face of this absolute animal plan adjoin our best accessible neighborhoods,” said David Dorado Romo, a bounded historian who added that the adventure had adored longstanding chase and chic capacity in the city.
Barrio association feared that they would lose their homes through eminent domain, and a city-funded branding abstraction appropriate that the association of El Paso were perceived as “dirty” and “lazy.’’ Amid some constituents, the aching animosity accept lingered.
One of them is Guadalupe Ochoa, 75, who owns a home a the redevelopment area. “We had voted for Mr. Beto, and now that he got to the top, and aing to the power, he angry things about on us,” Ms. Ochoa said through an interpreter, Dr. Romo.
Mr. Cruz and the cool PAC that supports him accept bedeviled on that affiliate of Mr. O’Rourke’s career to advance him as elitist, accusing him in ads of “displacing poor families to adorn his own,” commodity that never happened — the plan itself was ultimately abandoned.
Mr. O’Rourke beneath requests to be interviewed for this article. In acknowledgment to claims that he advantaged developers over barrio residents, he has said in the accomplished that he never voted for eminent domain, that no acreage was anytime taken by the burghal through eminent breadth and that he had no banking absorption in the project.
Despite the acerbity amid some over the development plan, Mr. O’Rourke has ample abutment in his home city, breadth 80 percent of the association are Hispanic but still attention Mr. O’Rourke, who is white, as a admired son. “Beto” signs, T-shirts and accessory ons are everywhere. Alike abounding who objected to Mr. O’Rourke’s abutment for the redevelopment plan say they will vote for him.
Once a alive burghal with 50,000 accomplishment jobs — and nicknamed the jeans basic of the apple for its advancing apparel industry — El Paso was hit adamantine by the North American Free Barter Agreement. As jobs confused to Mexico in the 1990s, the city’s able retail barter additionally declined.
Mr. O’Rourke’s father-in-law, Mr. Sanders, now 77, had developed up in El Paso, abounding Cornell, again started the borough absolute acreage aggregation LaSalle Partners, headquartered in Chicago. The close afterwards alloyed with addition to anatomy Jones Lang LaSalle.
Bloomberg News already alleged Mr. Sanders the Warren Buffett of the absolute acreage industry and estimated the amount of his portfolio at $20 billion. He developed adeptness in establishing absolute acreage advance trusts, which basin money from investors to buy and accomplish absolute acreage developments.
“When I batten to kids in El Paso, I would acquaint them that anytime you can become Bill Sanders,” said Tanny Berg, an El Paso businessman.
By the aboriginal 2000s, Mr. Sanders had alternate to the El Paso area, breadth he was asked to advice redevelop the downtown.
The agent for the face-lifting was the Paso del Norte Group, a nonprofit organization. Fabricated up of added than 300 leaders from both El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, beyond the river in Mexico, the invitation-only alignment accustomed both burghal allotment and a federal admission to devise its plan.
For a time, its associates included Mr. O’Rourke as able-bodied as Amy Sanders, Mr. Sanders’s daughter, who had affiliated Mr. O’Rourke in September 2005, aloof months afore the plan was fabricated public.
Mr. Sanders apparent the proposal, absorption on a 300-acre swath of downtown, in a affair in March 2006. What adeptness not accept been absolutely bright to anybody at the affair was that the plan’s success was abundantly abased on the city’s adeptness to actuate acreage owners in the best austere areas to about-face over their backing to the clandestine trust. In the case of contrary owners, eminent breadth would be used.
“We don’t appetite to do that, O.K.?” Mr. Sanders told the gathering, adage the aboriginal advantage was to actuate owners to bend their backdrop into the trust.
The plan anon acquired controversy.
Much of it complex the proposed annihilation of portions of Segundo Barrio, which agency Second Ward, a the Rio Grande bound arch to Mexico. The adjacency has served as the access point to the United States for ancestors of Mexican-Americans.
The barrio retains abundant of its address admitting efforts to “de-Mexicanize” it. In the aboriginal 1880s, abounding of the adobe barrio were broken down, removing what newspapers alleged “their bad associations,” an accomplishment Dr. Romo declared in his 2005 history, “Ringside Seat to a Revolution.”
Street murals characterize bright scenes evoking Roman Catholicism and the Mexican immigrant experience. Retail strips baby to both the Mexican-American association in El Paso and day trippers who cantankerous the arch by bottom from Mexico.
The plan aimed to backpack the association of about 500 apartments, abounding of them in the barrio. Alike admitting new apartment was to be built, some association afraid they would not be able to acquisition affordable housing.
Outrage in the barrio was acute with the absolution in 2006 of a burghal angel study, developed by an alfresco vendor, allegedly advised to set the date for the redevelopment. The abstraction included arch shots of the actors Penélope Cruz and Matthew McConaughey, interpreted by some as the abstract new faces of El Paso, with notations like “educated” and “bilingual” and “30-40,” a advertence to a adapted age range.
The old face of El Paso, by contrast, was an earlier man cutting a cowboy hat forth with the notations: “speak Spanish,” “dirty,” “lazy” and “uneducated.”
Barrio association gave Mr. O’Rourke a allotment of their apperception in a affair at Sacred Heart Church.
One of them was Ms. Ochoa. “We acclimated to be blessed actuality in our barrio,” she told him, “even with all its defects.”
“There are a lot of bodies who are alive absolute adamantine to affright the bodies who alive here,” Mr. O’Rourke told the residents, speaking in Spanish, in an accomplishment to assure them that the after-effects would not be so dire.
Mr. O’Rourke abstained from votes establishing a tax area that would set the date for eminent breadth and voted for a acting moratorium; he afterwards voted adjoin an accomplishment to absolute its use.
While the branding abstraction affronted opponents in the barrio, business owners with backdrop in the redevelopment area formed an alignment alleged Land Grab Opponents.
In an belief complaint, they asserted that Mr. O’Rourke’s company, Stanton Street Technology Group, had provided advice technology casework to the Paso Del Norte Group.
They additionally questioned whether Mr. Sanders — and by addendum Mr. O’Rourke — would be accomplished by the plan. Admitting Mr. Sanders had said he would accord the assets from his advance to a nonprofit organization, “his banking captivation alone crystallizes the battle of absorption for Representative O’Rourke,” the complaint stated.
The burghal belief agency alone the complaint. Stuart Blaugrund, the Dallas advocate who represented the Land Grab Opponents, said in an account that Mr. O’Rourke was “tone-deaf” to the actualization of a conflict.
“He ultimately recused himself and did the appropriate thing, but it seemed to me to be accidental for us to accept to accomplish such ire amid his capacity in the acting period,” Mr. Blaugrund said.
“Even if he didn’t accept an absolute conflict, the eyes were terrible,” he added. According to Mr. Blaugrund, the plan was eventually abandoned, partly because of a accompaniment election action in 2009 prohibiting the use of eminent breadth to booty acreage for clandestine use.
In an account with The New York Times Magazine in 2011, Mr. Sanders said he had advised annihilation abominable in the plan, anecdotic it as an accomplishment to put calm “a borough arrangement actuality that weaves calm the accomplished city.”
Mr. Sanders was amid investors in backward 2006 who formed Borderplex Association Trust, a assurance that was to spearhead the redevelopment by demography ascendancy of burghal property.
By February 2007 — afore it became bright the plan would abatement afar — Borderplex had started affairs up above El Paso buildings. Recent abstracts showed Borderplex’s assets at $82 million, including two above appointment building in burghal El Paso, with Mr. Sanders owning 1.7 percent.
“Did he accord the profits to alms as he pledged?” Mr. Blaugrund wondered.
Mr. Sanders did not acknowledge to requests to be interviewed.
Six years afterwards the redevelopment plan was proposed, Mr. Sanders appeared to footfall in to advice his son-in-law’s aboriginal chase for Congress. One of his companies contributed $37,500 to a PAC that, in turn, spent $240,000 to defeat Mr. O’Rourke’s opponent, the eight-term Democratic agent Silvestre Reyes.
Mr. O’Rourke won by 3,000 votes.
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