Thursday, March 8, 2012

City Adopts 'Plan El Paso'

The City of El Paso on Tuesday adopted the comprehensive Plan El Paso as the comprehensive plan for future growth and development in the City.
Conceptual Image of a Central Park that could replace downtown rail yards.
Plan El Paso is an immense volume of studies, maps, conceptual images, changes-over-time, graphs, and chapters upon chapters of recommendations for land-use, transit, design/aesthetics, and general growth focus that the city will take in the coming years and decades.
Left: Re-imagined Bassett Center changes over time.
Right: Concept of Zaragoza Road as a friendly Boulevard.
Land use is of significant importance in the plan, which includes many images which show changes over time if the standards of the plan are enforced. This includes areas that are undeveloped as well as older neighborhoods  closer to the city's center.
Intersection of Rojas and Zaragoza, re-imagined over time.
A main goal of the plan is to stop and prevent suburban sprawl by designing and repurposing neighborhoods, increasing density and promoting walkability. For decades El Paso neighborhoods have be alienated from commercial and retail sectors, and it is nearly impossible to commute between each without an automobile. The new vision for El Paso includes many areas that incorporate mixed-use buildings, meaning residents can opt to live very near to their employers and to retail and commercial town centers.
Conceptual changes on Mesa near UTEP.
Aesthetic design recommendations also play a large part in the plan. One important feature that is stressed throughout the plan is moving parking lots from the front of the buildings they serve to the back or inner areas. This simple idea can have a big impact and it's a shame that developers have rarely used this design in the city. Tree-lined streets are also important; they help to shade sidewalks and protect pedestrians and bicyclists.
The top left image shows a normal pocket park found in newer developments.
The same amount of space can be used to create much more appealing neighborhoods.
The plan even suggests proper design rules with respect to different styles of architecture found throughout El Paso, devoting many pages to specific rules for each style.

The City has adopted the plan as the guiding principles in future development for El Paso, but it has done so without enforcing these design ideals as requirements upon developers. Instead, it will use the guidelines to try and influence the city's growth wherever and whenever possible. Developers have been extremely slow to warm to the principles of smart growth, and some have been vocal opponents of any change in development style whatsoever, saying that El Pasoans do not want these higher-standard types of neighborhoods. But in meeting after meeting in all parts of the city, residents have overwhelmingly approved of smart growth ideals. Some enlightened developers have already adopted to smart growth principles, which will soon be seen in the Montecillo, Aldea, and Cruzero developments.
Concept of homes facing a linear arroyo park.
 Currently, the City owns a great deal of undeveloped land in the Northwest and Northeast areas of El Paso, and this can help influence the eventual development of those areas. In the near term, the city hopes to focus on specific projects that would highlight the recommendations of the plan. After spending so much time and effort on creating the new comprehensive plan, it's not surprising that the City would like to see much of the plan come to fruition. It is likely that many El Pasoans feel the same way.
Placement of Civic Buildings is important in the Plan.
A current blank El Paso street transformed using Plan El Paso principles.
Plan El Paso website: