Downtown El Paso: A Public-Private Approach to Event Permitting

Neon Desert concert in Downtown El Paso
Neon Desert concert in Downtown El Paso. Photo courtesy of @dwntwnelpaso Instagram.

Regular events – which bring people Downtown – are critical to urban-core revitalization efforts.

Recent local discussions about Jacksonville event permitting have prompted many to wonder what other approaches could work to streamline the event-permitting process and bring more events Downtown. Recently, the International Downtown Association (IDA) hosted a webinar about changes made to the Downtown event permitting process in El Paso, Texas.

El Paso had an event permitting process that was confusing, time consuming, expensive and frequently resulted in contradictory information given due to lack of communication between different departments. According to the El Paso Downtown Management District’s report:

“Applicants often filled out mounds of paper, dealt with several departments, received conflicting information and a barrage of fees – all of which resulted many organizers simply opting to host events outside of downtown, causing the city’s historic and architectural landmarks as well as the region’s premier cultural and artistic institutions to be underutilized.”

In 2011, the El Paso Downtown Management District entered into an inter-local agreement with the City of El Paso to take over and streamline the process. A new online application process was introduced. They also implemented an ad-hoc review committee who worked with the applicant to identify any additional information needs. This committee included transportation and safety officials and was designed to be a “one-stop” meeting for applicants.

516ac8cbf2de3.preview-300One year into the new process, it was noted the number of events doubled. According to the report:

“There were 22 events with more than 125,000 attendants and 1.5 million dollars generated in ticket sales. One of the applicants, representing a music festival that had brought approximately 12,000 attendants the previous year, expressed that the new process had cut the processing time in half.”

In 2013, IDA recognized the success of this effort with its Pinnacle Award, IDA’s top award for an exemplary project that profoundly impacts downtown revitalization efforts.

With studies determining this year’s One Spark and Jacksonville Jazz Festival had a $1.8 million and $2.83 million economic impact respectively, Downtown Jacksonville would benefit from more events. As Jacksonville event-permitting policies and procedures evolve, we’d love your thoughts. Have you experienced another city’s event-permitting process? Weigh in with your comments below.