Sunday, July 29, 2012

Venue at Montecillo Teases with New Pics

New pictures posted at the Venue at Montecillo Apartment Homes Facebook page are offering a fresh new look inside the soon-to-open smart code development on the west side. Recent posts include photos of what looks to be a finished unit inside one of the four buildings which will make up the complex. Images of the freshly painted exterior are also included.

The interior images show multiple views of a kitchen, including darkly finished cabinets with matching appliances, a granite-like peninsula with a sink and area for bar stools, and hardwood floors. The kitchen seems to open up to a living area with lots of natural light. One picture shows a walk-in shower.

The apartment homes were scheduled to open in spring but have been delayed as crews continue to put the finishing touches on the buildings. Floor plans range from 600 to 1,200 square feet and include balcony access for many units. The first floor of certain buildings will include square footage dedicated to retail/restaurant space.

The Venue at Montecillo is the first phase of a planned 288-acre smart code development which will eventually be home to 2,500 apartments and almost 500 homes.

The next phase of the project includes a retail/restaurant incubator called T.I.M.E. which will help entrepreneurs develop new ventures and will be open to the public, and a senior-retirement apartment community called the Retreat at Montecillo.

Venue at Montecillo Facebook page:
Website Offers Glimpse of Montecillo's Future
Venue at Montecillo Premieres New Website
Montecillo Preparing for Senior Housing

Monday, July 23, 2012

UTEP Unveils Campus 'Transformation' Images

University Avenue Eastern Gateway
The University of Texas at El Paso has unveiled conceptual images of what the campus will look like within a few years after an outdoor "transformation" is completed. Common areas throughout UTEP will go through major changes as vehicular traffic is moved out of the central areas and replaced with paths, lawns, common areas, shade trees, and a multitude of landscape features.
Hawthorne Avenue looking east from Rim Road.
Eleven projects are outlined in the school's plans and include Centennial Plaza, Lhakhang, Leech Grove, Eastern Gateway, The Arroyo, Miner Alley, Old Main / Circle Drive, Union West, Wiggins Road, Psychology Building, and Hawthorne Street.
Centennial Plaza and Lhakhang
One of the biggest changes will create a new Centennial Plaza in the middle of campus, ringed by the Union, Geological Sciences, Psychology and Administration buildings. Construction will remove current streets, parking lots, and concrete areas to reveal a more natural environment. The plaza will "include a large open area reminiscent of urban plazas located across the Paso del Norte region and in Mexico, where residents congregate and celebrate life."
Miner Alley
An infusion of scores of trees will add to a more pedestrian-friendly feel and will include natural, drought-tolerant species such as Mesquite Trees. The focus will be on creating a consistent canopy all through the campus to shade students, faculty, and visitors as they stroll through the grounds. Native vegetation and flowering plants will be grouped to have a grander impact.
The Arroyo
And the University will take great steps in reinvigorating and promoting the campus Arroyo to a more prominent feature. According to the plans, "Its natural beauty will be enhanced with the addition of new bridges, overlooks and landscaping. New pathways and seating areas will encourage walking, bicycling and other outdoor activity both within the campus itself and as the campus connects with planned neighborhood developments in such areas as Arroyo Park."

View additional details on all the projects by visiting

Saturday, July 21, 2012

CVS Pharmacy May Open Downtown Location

An application to the City's Historic Landmark Commission has revealed the location of a possible future CVS Pharmacy in the heart of Downtown. The building that will house the pharmacy, at 201 N. Mesa Street, is in the Downtown Historic District and requires an application for any outdoor alterations. In this case, the application is for signage on the exterior walls facing both Mesa Street and Texas Avenue.

The pharmacy signals a new willingness for national retailers to consider opening locations in Downtown El Paso and could be an acknowledgement of an increase in housing and commercial movement into the city's core. Private and public investment in Downtown has been the most in decades within the last few years, and may come to a head with the construction of a baseball stadium at the current City Hall location.

The historic building is two levels and appears to be currently vacant. It is unclear if the second level will also be occupied or renovated. The new pharmacy would be the first CVS in El Paso, though the company could be looking to open other locations within the city, and would be located directly across Mesa Street from a Walgreen's. Downtown residents and workers should benefit from the competition if the CVS plan comes to fruition.

The Historic Landmark Commission will hear the application at its July 23, 2012 meeting. River Oaks Properties is the owner of the building.

Historic Landmark Commission agenda item (PDF):

Friday, July 20, 2012

Infill Projects Slated for Sunset Heights, Magoffin

Two infill projects are planned for Sunset Heights in El Paso.
Two new infill projects have their targets set on historic Sunset Heights in El Paso, and a third is slated for the Magoffin area just east of Downtown. The projects point to an uptick in interest in developing additional housing for the city's central core as focus on Downtown's redevelopment continues on an upward swing.

The first project is located at 1416 Fewel Street, just south of the UTEP campus. Plans presented to the Historic Landmark Commission show a new single family residence proposed for the property. Currently, the plot is vacant except for a still-standing separate garage which will be saved in the new plan.

The second project will go up at 1207 Los Angeles Drive, only two blocks away from the first project. This larger property will house a seven unit, two-story apartment building, ranging from one to three bedrooms. Elevations show what appears to be a craftsman design and include tapered columns, decorative vents, exposed beams, and balconies. Several units will also have one- or two-car garages accessible from the rear.

The third project is located at 1107 Magoffin Avenue and will be a combination apartment and office building. It will include three one-bedroom apartments and a two-office suite. The exterior will be brick and include brick columns supporting an upstairs balcony porch. This project is located one block east of the brand new Magoffin Park Villas apartment building.

All three projects are located in historic districts and must receive approval from the Historic Landmark Commission to move forward with construction. The Commission's duty is to ensure:

• Any new construction must be compatible in size, texture, color, design, proportion
and detail to adjacent buildings and streetscapes.
• New structures should respect the integrity of existing buildings.
• Setbacks, proportion, rhythm, and building elements should all be addressed.
• The predominant existing building line must be maintained.
• All new construction should preserve and enhance the streetscape.

The Historic Landmark Commission will consider these projects at its July 23, 2012 meeting.

Historic Landmark Commission meeting agenda:

Central Project Highlights City's Infill Incentives

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

City Prefers New Franklin Mountains State Park Entrance, Gives Park 600 Acres

A rural road (highlighted in green) would lead to the new entrance.
City Council voted unanimously to support a new entrance to Franklin Mountains State Park on the west side at it's July 17, 2012 meeting. The new route was recommended by the Public Service Board after an examination of how the Loop 375 Transmountain Road expansion would affect those wishing to access the park using the current entrance. The City has chosen a route that would move the entrance northward and off of a different arterial altogether.

Currently, eastbound park visitors must cross one lane of oncoming highway traffic on Transmountain Road, vehicles which come at a high rate of speed. Construction is currently underway which will widen Transmountain to two lanes in each direction, making the highway crossing even more dangerous.

In a meeting earlier this month, the Public Service Board reviewed several options for how to handle the state park's entrance and its connection to Loop 375. Options included multiple interchange designs at the current entrance, but board members decided that these choices would require too much space and be too costly. Instead, they opted for creating a "rural" road off of Paseo del Norte which will lead to a new wilderness center and entrance. Visitors to the park will use the Paseo del Norte at Transmountain interchange west of the current entrance. City Council approved this recommendation to the Texas Department of Transportation, which will ultimately decide the option to utilize.

In a related agenda item, City Council voted to approve giving the State Park 600 acres of City-owned land that is currently mapped as open-space in the Northwest Master Plan. The acreage abuts the current Franklin Mountains State Park to the east and would supplement what is currently the largest park within city limits in the entire country. Wording in the deed to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department states the the land must be used as open space and cannot be sold for other purposes. In the event the State decides to sell the land, it would immediately be transferred back to the City.

City Council Park Entrance Agenda Item (PDF):
City Council State Park Acreage Agenda Item (PDF):

Northwest Plan Doubles Open Space, Adds 'Villages'

Saturday, July 14, 2012

$37.6M Americas Managed Lanes Project Takes Shape

Another construction project on Loop 375 is taking shape on the heels of the current Border Highway expansion in the Lower Valley. The Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA) is moving forward with plans to add an inside managed toll lane in each direction on Loop 375 from the Zaragoza Port of Entry to Pellicano Drive on the East Side. A Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for Environmental and Preliminary Engineering services has been published at the CRRMA website and provides some details as to the project's scope and goals.
Americas Managed Lanes Project Limits
The Americas Managed Lanes project would add a third lane in each direction in what is currently the median of the freeway; the additional lane would be a toll lane. This would require the filling-in of median gaps in current overpass structures, such as those at Socorro Road, Alameda Avenue, and North Loop. The toll lane would continue the lanes currently under construction along the Border Highway between US-54 and Zaragoza Road and could run as far north as Pellicano Drive. Much of Loop 375 north of Interstate 10 and up to Montana Avenue has an unused inside lane and would be easy to convert to managed lanes in the future. The northern limit of the toll lanes is still under consideration, according to the RFQ.
Unused lanes on Loop 375 north of I-10
A major improvement mentioned in the scope of work is the addition of frontage road bridges for Americas Avenue between Alameda Avenue and North Loop Drive. Currently, the frontage roads end in turnarounds when approaching Union Pacific railroad tracks. Commuters traveling from North Loop to Alameda, and vice versa, are forced to enter the freeway, causing major backups at the current Alameda exit on Loop 375 south. In the new plan, the frontage roads would continue on new bridge structures built over the railroad tracks.
Americas Avenue stops abruptly at railroad tracks between Alameda and North Loop.
Part of the RFQ provides details on adjacent projects under construction, and indicates that three ramps are currently being designed for the Americas Interchange in addition to the three under construction today, "including (iv) westbound I-10 to northbound Loop 375; (v) westbound I-10 to southbound Loop 375; and (vi) eastbound I-10 to southbound Loop 375."

No official time frame has been provided for the new managed lanes or interchange ramps projects.

CRRMA webiste:

Progress Continues at Americas Interchange

Thursday, July 12, 2012

City to Hold Community Meetings on Streetcar Project

The City of El Paso will hold two community meetings this month to get public input on the upcoming $90 Million streetcar project slated to run from Downtown El Paso to UTEP. The City will also use the meetings to clear up any questions the public may have on the route, impact, and general timeline for the proposed line.
Proposed Streetcar Route
The meetings will take place as follows:

Tuesday July 17, 2012 6 to 8 p.m.
Union Plaza Transit Terminal
400 W. San Antonio

Thursday July 19, 2012 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
El Paso Community College - Rio Grande Campus
100 W. Rio Grande
Conference Room A-119

For more information on the streetcar project, read our previous posts here:
Council Chooses Streetcar Route
Trolley Project Could Get $90M in TxDOT Funds

Thanks to Peter Svarzbein, creator of The El Paso Transnational Trolley Project, for the information on the meetings. Visit the website here:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

'Fountains' Website Updated, Debuts New Images

The website for the upcoming Fountains at Farah shopping center has been updated to include new images of what the expected shopping center will look like when it opens in fall of 2013. Three images have been added showing two different perspectives of the overall center and a close up of what will be considered the central area of the promenade. An updated Site Plan is also included at the website.
The promenade is considered the lifestyle area of the center and includes retailers and restaurants on both sides of the main drive area. On-street angled parking will be complemented by smaller pocket parking lots located between the shops lining Gateway West Boulevard. Shops along the northern side of the promenade will actually line and hide the lower level of a double deck parking structure. Multiple entrances to the first parking level will be located along the promenade.
The images show additional lifestyle features such as multiple fountains, common areas, benches, kiosks, specialty lighting, a stage, and sculptures. Trolleys can also be seen and will circulate throughout the Fountains to assist shoppers with traversing the half-mile-plus long center. Dozens of trees should also help shield pedestrians from El Paso's notoriously blazing sun.

Located behind and above the promenade will be the larger "big box" retailers, situated at the same elevation as the second level of the parking structure. This area will feel like a typical power shopping center, though shaded parking has been added to the project images. Escalators and elevators will help shoppers travel from the lower promenade to the upper anchor stores.

No retailers have been announced for the promenade section of the Fountains at Farah, though Nordstrom Rack recently acknowledged a future presence in the "big box" area of the center. EMJ Construction of Dallas is the center's builder.

Fountains at Farah website:
EMJ Construction website:

'Fountains' Construction Start, Opening Dates Revealed
'Fountains' Images Show Possible Design Aesthetics
Nordstrom Rack 'Fountains' Location Details

Friday, July 6, 2012

Progress Continues at Americas Interchange

The Americas Interchange continues to make shape just six months from its expected completion date. Crews are moving at a furious pace to meet their deadline, and monumental changes are seen on a nearly daily basis.

According to the Project Schedule, utility work is complete with most work focusing on the direct connector ramps. The majority of columns have been placed, while concrete and steel beams are at about 60-70%. Concrete work is being used on the shorter bridge expanses while steel beams are used for longer stretches, such as on the eastbound to northbound ramp.

To date, 110 out of 114 drill shafts have been constructed, 84 out of 93 columns have been completed, 54 out of 78 bent caps have been constructed, 213 out of 363 concrete beams have been placed, 68 out of 96 steel girders have been placed, and 13 out of 76 bridge deck spans have been poured.

Three direct connectors should be completed by January 2013, which is the scope of the current project. However, a fourth direct connector could begin construction at the tail end of this project. This would create a ramp from Interstate 10 westbound to Loop 375 northbound. No word yet on the expected completion date for the fourth connector.

Americas Interchange website:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Downtown Garage Transforming Into Bank, Office Building

A long-time parking structure is making a new transformation into a bank and office building at 401 E. Main near the financial sector of downtown El Paso. Steel beams, cranes, and construction workers mark the progress being made at what will become a new location for the United Bank of El Paso del Norte.

According to specification details on the architect's website, the first floor will become the bank's downtown location, while the second and third floors will remain parking levels. A fourth and fifth floor will be added and become lease-able office space.

Current Parking Structure
The resulting 92,000 square foot building will be of Spanish Colonial design and contain what looks like a bell tower at the southeast corner. No word on when the project is slated for completion.

Architect's project web page: