Wednesday, February 29, 2012

El Cruzero to Transform Far East El Paso Desert

A new 228 acre mixed use development is slated for far east El Paso which will incorporate new Smart Code rules. El Cruzero Town Center will be built at the northeast corner of Montana Ave and Joe Battle (Loop 375), and will be comprised of two mixed-use areas, a Regional Center Development and a Traditional Neighborhood Development.

Components of the project will include multi- and single-family housing, mixed use commercial, parks, open space, and parts of a mass transit system. The developer will also partner with a school district in order to create a school.
Conceptual Image of El Cruzero Town Center
Wright & Dalbin Architects has been chosen as the architectural firm for El Cruzero. The firm has previously worked directly with the City of El Paso on the Alamito Apartments located in South El Paso.
Conceptual Image of El Cruzero Town Center
Cruzero Development, LLC, entered into a Chapter 380 Economic Development Agreement with the City in April of 2011 which will provide the developer with tax break incentives in order to make the project a reality. According to the city, construction must begin within 24 months of the execution of the Chapter 380 agreement. This puts the deadline for construction to begin in spring of 2013. Few specific details have been released to date.

Wright & Dalbin project website:
Original Chapter 380 Agreement city ordinance:

Monday, February 27, 2012

'The Mix' Adds Downtown Housing

A new "upscale, urban" mixed use development has added 14 modern apartment units to Downtown's Union Plaza District. Octavio Gomez, founder/owner of Union Plaza hot spots such as 1914 Lounge, Brick and Mortar, and The Garden, has renovated a century-old building at 518 W. San Antonio Avenue and is calling it The Mix, as reported in this week's El Paso Inc.

Aside from the 14 apartment units, the space also contains thousands of square feet for retail/commercial uses. Four spaces have already been leased, one to an engineer's office, two to boutiques, and another to an art studio. Gomez says that most of the apartment units have also been leased. One-bedroom units rent for $600, a two-bedroom unit for $800, and a three-bedroom unit rents for “about $1,000,” according to Gomez. For an extra $50 a month, renters can reserve a parking space in an adjacent lot.

The total renovation cost Gomez around $1.5 Million. Housing has been an element largely missing from downtown revitalization, and interest in this project could spark additional development nearby.
Plan Presented to City Council for The Mix
Original El Paso Inc. article:
September 2011 El Paso Times article introducing the project*:

*Please note: El Paso Times articles are available for a limited time online before they are archived.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

City Eyeing Old Saddleblanket For Artspace Project

City Council will introduce an ordinance on February 28, 2012, to transfer the old El Paso Saddleblanket property at 601 N. Oregon to the El Paso Community Foundation in an effort to locate the planned Artspace project at that location. It is located adjacent to the new Doubletree Hotel. The Council will vote on the item on March 6.

The goal is to create a "high density mixed-use, arts-oriented affordable rental housing development on the Property containing studio/work and gallery spaces," according to the ordinance. The City entered into an agreement with the EPCF and Artspace in 2010 to produce a project of this type. It is seen as a project that will improve cultural heritage and that can be a catalyst for nearby revitalization. A preliminary study has shown a market demand for up to 127 units in downtown El Paso. 
601 N. Oregon - Old Saddleblanket Building
Artspace Projects Inc. is an organization which creates these types of developments throughout the United States. From the Artspace website: "Artspace owns and operates 27 projects in 19 cities and 13 states. Twenty-one of the 27 are live/work projects with a total of 922 residential units. The others are non-residential projects that provide space for artists and cultural organizations. Many of the live/work projects also include non-residential space such as studios, offices for arts organizations, rehearsal and performance venues, and space for arts-friendly businesses."
Artspace Project in Seattle

Asarco Ready for Development in 2015, Stacks or No Stacks

Roberto Puga, the trustee appointed to oversee the remediation of the Asarco site, stated this week that those interested in saving the smokestacks at Asarco have nine months left to come up with the plan and $14 Million needed to insure and retrofit the historic icons/blights. Puga delayed the demolition of the stacks for one year in order to accommodate the group seeking to save the stacks.

In an El Paso Inc. story, Puga also said that he would like one master developer to purchase all 350 acres, which span both sides of I-10, and that the site would be ready for sale in 2015, a short three years away. A new change in the plan includes topping the site with five feet of clean soil and not the asphalt surface that was in the original plan.

Puga also reinforced that the City has a large say as to the use and design of the land, regardless of who ultimately purchases it. This includes Smart Code zoning and transportation design that can be overlaid on the property prior to sale. Some Smart Code applications have already been approved. The City, with the help of design firm Dover Kohl, envisions a mixed-use development that could include an impact project, such as an arena or amusement park to anchor the property.

Original El Paso Inc. article:
Asarco Trustee Site:
Plan El Paso Site:

City Disappointed with Camino Real Response

City Manager Joyce Wilson was disappointed with the Camino Real owners' response to the idea of selling the historic hotel to a group of local investors. Rosalinda Gonzalez, the general manager of Camino Real Hotels, had previously said that the company had no interest in selling nor participating in downtown revitalization efforts. Furthermore, Gonzalez stated that the hotel is run using their own rules and not any others.

According to a story in this week's El Paso Inc., Wilson responded with, "I find it unlikely that any business entity, regardless of location, would not want to share in the benefit of a wholesale revitalization effort which only improves their economic viability and opportunities for the future."

Mayor John Cook added that he would be content if they indeed ran the Camino Real in El Paso the same way they ran other hotels in the chain. "If they would operate the hotel like they operate the Camino Real chain in Mexico, that would be fine. In Mexico, they take really good care of their hotels. The one in El Paso is very much neglected, even though we have offered them incentives to make improvements."

Indeed, Camino Real hotels in other locations are considered upscale and high-end offerings. The hotel in El Paso, however, can no longer be considered that way.

Originally the Hotel Paso del Norte, the hotel is the most historic still-standing hotel in El Paso.
Original Hotel Towers
Original El Paso Inc. article:

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Montecillo Preparing for Senior Housing

EPT Land Communities has submitted a zoning application to City Council to change to Smart Code Zone for a new senior housing building. The Retreat at Montecillo will be a multi-story building with design that is in line with the four building development The Venue at Montecillo that is currently under construction along Mesa. It will have 150 senior-only units.

A September story from El Paso Inc. disclosed that construction would begin within six months, the sixth month being March. City Council will most likely vote on 2/21 to approve the zoning change and give the green light for the project to move forward.
Montecillo is a 293 acre smart code urban village that will cost $777-million to build out and will include 2,500 apartments and almost 500 homes and town homes. The development will also have commercial space, parks, schools, and civic areas.

EPT Land Communities Website:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fountains at Farah Design Changes Submitted

Update 2: View the latest elevations and details in our latest post here: 'Fountains' Website Updated, Debuts New Images

Update: The developer has moved the Grand Opening to November of 2013. See our post here:

Original Post:
Centergy Retail, developer of the upcoming Fountains at Farah shopping center near Cielo Vista Mall, submitted a modified site plan to the City in November. Centergy was required to submit the changed site plan as part of the Chapter 380 Agreement that the City approved in 2008 to incentivize the development to demolish the blighted Farah warehouse and create a new retail development that includes "lifestyle" elements.

The new design was created by SWA, an international design firm, and has expanded the lifestyle area substantially. It includes a 1,800 foot long pedestrian-friendly promenade with shops and restaurants lining both sides, along with on-street parking. Behind the spaces lining the northeastern side of the promenade is a double-level parking structure. Big box retail will be located behind the structure, with storefronts aligned with the upper level.

Current site preparation construction is ongoing, though no tenants have been announced. The development's website,, contains several conceptual elevation images, some of which show Best Buy and Dick's Sporting Goods signs on buildings, though these may purely appear for illustrative purposes.

City Council approved the changes. The development's brochure still lists Fall of 2012 as the grand opening date. The site is owned by Paul Foster.

Original City Council agenda item (PDF):

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Foster Out of San Jacinto Redesign

KVIA is reporting that Paul Foster's Mills Plaza Properties has removed itself from helping to redesign and reconstruct San Jacinto Plaza in the heart of Downtown. The decision comes after some members of the public showed concern that the Lagartos sculpture was removed from the park in the initial redesigns. Later designs inserted the sculpture back into the park, and now include a shade structure to protect the piece of art from the sun.

The final design has tentatively received approval from the city, and the total price tag for the project is estimated to be $4-5 Million. Groundbreaking is still many months away, and it is unclear if Foster's decision will affect Mills Plaza's participation in the Mills Plaza Promenade project, a pedestrian-only right of way between Foster's Mills Building and Plaza Hotel.

KVIA Video Report:

El Paso Nearing 10,000 'Quality' Hotel Rooms

Convention and Visitors Bureau general manager Bill Blaziek indicated to KVIA Channel 7 that the number of "quality" hotel rooms in El Paso is "quickly reaching about 10,000," which could help the city land more and larger conventions.

A new hotel has opened its doors near the now booming Airway/Gateway East intersection, and two more hotels are planned within just a mile of the area according to Adrian Perez, the general manager for the new Hilton Garden Inn.

Despite consistent worry from hotel owners and the Hotel/Motel Association about over-supply due to new hotels, occupancy levels continue to be high in El Paso. Many have worried that high occupancy in recent years has been due to Fort Bliss expansion, and that occupancy would plummet once expansion slowed. But an improving economy and a rebounding maquiladora industry in Juarez could help keep occupancy at current levels.

Original KVIA story:

UTEP Hires Firm to Improve Campus Design

UTEP has hired design firms Lake/Flato Architects of San Antonio and Ten Eyck Landscape Architects (TELA) of Austin to help transform six areas of campus into more pedestrian-friendly, better-designed "memorable spaces."

According to UTEP's press release, the areas involved are: Memorial Triangle, Leech Grove, Circle Drive (between Old Main and the Psychology Building), the arroyo, the courtyard behind the Physical Sciences Building, and Miner Alley (the walkway between the Sun Bowl Parking Garage and the Fox Fine Arts Building, Miners Hall, Worrell Hall and Hudspeth Hall).

The firms will submit conceptual designs by May 31, which will also include probable costs associated with the construction work. The University hopes that work will be completed by 2014, the year of its Centennial Celebration.

The firms have experience in campus design, including Arizona State University Polytechnic Campus and University of Arizona.

UTEP's master plan can be found here:
Original Press Release:

Camino Real Owners Not Selling

El Paso Inc. reports this week that the Mexican company that owns El Paso's historic Camino Real hotel is not interested in selling the hotel to a group of local investors. A general manager for Camino Real Hotels indicated that the company wants no part of the current downtown redevelopment efforts, and that the hotel is maintained under their rules, "which are Mexican rules for a Mexican company."

Camino Real Hotels purchased the hotel in 2000. Since that time, very little investment has been made into upgrading the hotel to the current standards for an upscale convention hotel. Hotel guests have encountered a broken air conditioning system in the peak of summer, non-functioning hotel phones, out-dated bathrooms, and old tube televisions.

The Convention and Vistors Bureau has stopped recommending the hotel to visitors after special guests had to be moved to the nearby Doubletree during last year's Plaza Classic Film Festival because air conditioners at the Camino Real broke down. Though the Doubletree is much newer and more reliable, it does not have the meeting space necessary to be considered a convention hotel.

Camino Real Hotel Manager René Rubio indicated that the hotel's occupancy last year averaged only 35%.

Full Story:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Council Supports Schuster Extension

City Council voted to support an extension of Schuster Avenue westward in order to connect it to Paisano. According to the El Paso Times, the project would cost an estimated $73 Million, which includes approximately $48 Million in construction costs. Funds have not become available for the project, according to TXDOT's advance transportation planning director for the El Paso District, Eduardo Calvo.

The project may be part of the City's larger Comprehensive Mobility Plan (, and would increase access to the UTEP area. There is no word on exactly where Schuster would intersect with Paisano, or if the planned westward extension of Loop 375 would be involved. The new mainlanes of the 375 project could be constructed above Paisano.

Schuster Extension
Original El Paso Times story*:

*Please note: El Paso Times online articles are available for a limited amount of time before they are archived.

Northpark Transit Project May Receive $15.2 Million

The U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, has recommended that $15.2 Million be included in the federal budget to support the City's Rapid Transit System's (RTS) Northeast corridor, according to the El Paso Times. This would include designing the transit-oriented development at the old Northpark Mall location, which is currently being demolished. The entire corridor would stretch from downtown, through Central El Paso, and continue on Dyer with its terminus at the Northpark development.

The Plan El Paso draft proposes a mixed-use development at the Northpark site, which would include apartments, condos, and row houses, a community center, parks, retail sites including parking structures lined with storefronts, and two transit stops, one for regular Sun Metro service and one for the Rapid Transit System. Planning is still in the very early stages.

The new federal budget has not been approved.

Original El Paso Times story*:

*Please note: El Paso Times online articles are available for a limited amount of time.

"Plan El Paso" Draft Now Online

The City's effort to create a comprehensive intelligent growth strategy for El Paso has now been published in draft form. Planning firm Dover Kohl and Partners ( has completed the brunt of the work on the project to create policies that will help dictate the City's future development, and City Council will vote in the coming months on incorporating the new policies into the Comprehensive Plan.

The plan includes many progressive growth strategies, including buildings with little or no setbacks (with parking in the rear of the building), transit-oriented developments that are pedestrian friendly, tree-lined streets, architectural guidelines that promote interesting facades, and layouts that encourage walking or bike-riding.

There are key focus areas that showcase the new ideals, including Remcon/Mesa on the West Side, the demolished Northpark area in the Northeast, Zaragoza east of Joe Battle on the East Side, and long stretches of Alameda near UMC and through to the Lower Valley. Downtown is also very important in the plan, as mentioned in multiple chapters.

It is clear that city beautification is incorporated into most facets of the Plan, as is a focus on increasing the canopy (trees) as much as possible in order to decrease the impact of the stifling sun on pedestrians.

Find the full draft plan here:

Note: The plan is available in two parts, both very large PDFs. Please keep this in mind when clicking on each to open and view them. They may require long download times.

Cover of the draft plan.

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The El Paso Development News Blog was created to keep those outside of the development community up to date on planned and ongoing projects throughout El Paso and the Borderland. This blog is dedicated to finding the most up-to-date information available, combing through traditional news sources, developer websites, and first-person accounts to provide those interested with the latest development news.

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