Thursday, August 30, 2012

City Finalizes Quality of Life Ballot Questions

The City of El Paso has narrowed down the Quality of Life (QOL) proposals that will appear on the ballot in the November general election to three questions.

Questions 1 and 2 will cover about $473 million worth of parks and recreation (including zoo) projects as well as museum, performing arts and library projects. They are separated generally into outdoor and indoor uses.

Question 1:

Question 2:

The third question will ask voters to approve a 2% increase in the Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) in order to fund the construction of a downtown baseball stadium at the current City Hall site. Currently, the HOT sits at 15.5% of which the City gets 7%.

Question 3:

Raising the HOT will cap it at a maximum allowable rate of 17.5%. Despite possibly having the highest HOT rate in the state, the Average Daily Rate of a hotel room in El Paso remains one of the lowest in Texas. This means that the 2% increase would amount to about $1.40 more per night on an average hotel room in the city. When looking at actual tax collected per night, El Paso would still collect less per room than all major cities in Texas, even with the increase in the HOT.

Average HOT per room in dollars.

The City adds: "Please note: Voters will be voting on a two percent (2%) increase in the hotel occupancy tax (HOT) only. Voters will not be voting on the ballpark project itself. An increase in the HOT tax will allow for visitors to pay for the majority of the ballpark project not its residents."

City Quality of Life webpage:

Check Out Our New Downtown Page

The El Paso Development News Blog has created a page dedicated specifically to posts about Downtown El Paso. To visit the page, simply click on the Downtown page link located at the top of each blog page.

With so much development activity happening Downtown, we thought we'd make it easier for readers to view posts about Downtown. From here, you can read more about each story by clicking on the story title or by clicking on the Read More link below each post. Check it out!

Downtown Page Link:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Americas Interchange Landscape Options to be Considered by CRRMA

The Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA) will soon consider landscape plans for the Americas Interchange/Cloverleaf currently under construction on El Paso's east side. The board, which is in charge of the majority of transportation projects in El Paso, will review an item at its August 29, 2012 meeting which introduces three different landscape designs.
Option 1
The major elements of Option 1 include large stone-filled cages surrounded by large grasses which will be lit up at night, boulders surrounding the outer edges of each cloverleaf, parallel zones made of colored stones, and smaller trees lining the outer edges.

Option 2 includes large boulders in the center of each cloverleaf surrounded by artistic wall sculptures, more boulders along the outside of each curve, and grasses and trees providing greenery. The trees would also be native plantings and line the outer edges of the overall interchange.
Option 2
And Option 3 would include a simpler design with mounds of shrubs and grasses interspersed throughout the grounds. No decorative boulders or sculptures would be included in this design, and native trees would surround the site.
Option 3
The CRRMA Board may approve a design at the meeting. The designs were developed by Jacobs Engineering Group Inc.

CRRMA website:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

More Large-Scale Redevelopment Slated for Downtown

Several properties located near San Jacinto Plaza are in store for redevelopment and could mean more retail, office, and residential space for the city's downtown. That's according to a story posted at the El Paso Times website, which interviews the head of an investment group purchasing two Downtown landmarks.

Lane Gaddy and a group of investors have already purchased the seven story Martin Building at the corner of Stanton Street and Mills Avenue and are looking to buy another building from River Oaks Properties directly across Mills Avenue from San Jacinto Plaza. The Roberts-Banner Building is a five story historic edifice that the City was interested in a few months back and located one block from the newly renovated Mills Building owned by Paul Foster. The group would also like to buy the Tejas Cafe Building less than one block away at 204-210 Mills Avenue.

Borderplex Properties
Another player in Downtown property redevelopment, Borderplex Community Trust (BCT), has plans for a strip of largely vacant buildings along Mesa Street from Mills Avenue to Texas Avenue. BCT would like to demolish the buildings in hopes of erecting a brand new mixed-use project at the site but has received opposition due to one of the building's historic significance. The building at 230 N. Mesa Street was designed by Henry Trost, one of the city's most significant historic figures who designed many historically-significant buildings in El Paso.

These projects are all less than a block from the upcoming CVS Pharmacy project at 201 N. Mesa Street, a 30,000 square foot building that is currently vacant. The actual drug store should take up about 10,000 square feet of space.

Read more at the Times website here:

All this activity comes amid the City's plan to reconstruct San Jacinto Plaza into a larger, more user-friendly park, and the upcoming Mills Plaza Promenade which will allow only pedestrian traffic on Mills from Oregon Street to El Paso Street. The Promenade project is being developed by Paul Foster's Mills Plaza Properties though the right of way will remain in the City's ownership.

Add to this the plans for a $50 Million baseball stadium just blocks away, a pending streetcar project, an ArtSpace housing/gallery plan, and the transformation of a parking garage into an office building (see Previously section below), and you have an increase in Downtown construction activity not seen in decades. Stay tuned for more Downtown updates.

City Interested In Historic Downtown Building
CVS Pharmacy May Open Downtown Location
Downtown Garage Transforming Into Bank, Office Building
San Jacinto Revamp Moves Into Final Design Phase
Trolley Project Could Get $90M in TxDOT Funds
City Approves Downtown Ballpark
Council Approves Artspace Project at Old Saddleblanket

Monday, August 20, 2012

Infill Momentum Continues with Golden Hill Project

A new project in central El Paso is adding to the recent uptick in infill development in and around the city's core. Multi-family housing is proposed in a recent application to the City Plan Commission which hopes to remove outdated conditions placed on the property in 1986.

The application reveals plans for a six-unit apartment building located at 1515 Golden Hill Terrace, just off of Arizona Avenue. The building elevations imply town-home type units with carriage-style garage doors for five of the apartments. Balconies and patios also look to be part of the design.

Location of Multi-Family Apartments at 1515 Golden Hill Terrace.
Infill projects have appeared more frequently in recent months as interest in quality central El Paso housing has increased. No timeline is given for this project in the City Plan Commission application.

City Plan Commission agenda item (PDF):

Infill Projects Slated for Sunset Heights, Magoffin
Central Project Highlights City's Infill Incentives

New $1B Beaumont Hospital, EPCC Add to Ft. Bliss Expansion

The ongoing expansion of Ft. Bliss continues as plans to construct a new William Beaumont Army Medical Center (WBAMC) move forward just off of Loop 375 and Spur 601. The $1 Billion dollar project includes construction of 1.13 million square foot complex on a 200+ acre site and will be a LEED certified building when completed.
The new WBAMC location, off of Loop 375 just south of Spur 601.
Sections of the hospital will vary from four to seven stories in height, and a 135-bed wing will be located in the tallest structure. The hospital will have two access points, one near a new overpass currently under construction on Loop 375.
HDR Inc., a Nebraska-based architecture, engineering, consulting, and construction firm, designed the environmentally friendly medical center. According to HDR's project page, sustainable features in the design include "Alternative Energy, Bike Racks, Construction Waste Management, Daylighting & Views, Geothermal Energy, Heat Island Reduction Strategies, LEED Registered, Light Pollution Reduction, Local/Regional Materials, Recycling , and Renewable Energy On-site."
Army officials will soon announce the builder chosen for the project. The new facility will replace the current WBAMC located in Northeast El Paso. Plans for the older facility have not yet been announced.

HDR Project Website:

EPCC at Fort Bliss

El Paso Community College (EPCC) announced recently that it will be adding a new Fort Bliss location in the near future. The college has been working for five years to make the campus at the Army post a reality. The plans are currently in the design/bidding phase which should be completed in 2013, and construction could start shortly thereafter.

This new campus branch will be located in the same vicinity as the upcoming William Beaumont Army Medical Center, near Loop 375 and Spur 601. Though located on post, students will be able to access the college via a new interchange currently under construction on Loop 375. The new campus will strengthen EPCC's current presence on base.

EPCC News Story:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Retail Update: Menchie's, Chipotle Expand to East El Paso; Outlet Shoppes Add Space; Sam's to Northeast?

Rojas Commons

Rojas Commons Site Plan
The Rojas/George Dieter intersection in East El Paso will soon see several new restaurants including Menchie's Frozen Yogurt and Chipotle Mexican Grill when a new 35,000 square foot shopping center is completed later this year, built by River Oaks Properties.
Rojas Commons is currently under construction across the street from Las Palmas Marketplace, an extremely popular shopping/dining area just off of Interstate 10 and Zaragoza Road. Other announced tenants include two restaurants new to El Paso, Jason's Deli ( Mama Fu's Asian House ( Dunkin' Donuts will also have a location at the center.

Menchie's is popular on El Paso's west side with a location on Sunland Park Drive, while Chipotle's only location is on Mesa Street near UTEP. Both should receive a strong response from Eastsiders in this area popular for food joints.

Outlet Shoppes

Expansion is also underway at the Outlet Shoppes at El Paso in the city's northwest. The 27,000 square foot addition on the center's southeast side is also being built by River Oaks and will be known as The Shops at the Outlet Mall. Starbuck's and Pizza Hut will be the first tenants to open at the addition. Construction is scheduled for completion in September.

Outlet Shoppes Addition

The Outlet Shoppes website also lists Charlotte Russe and Sprockets locations as opening soon at the center. Charlotte Russe previously had a location at Cielo Vista Mall. Sprockets ( is a children's clothing store with only two other locations in the country.

Sam's to Northeast?

An "competition aerial" map posted at the Fountains at Farah website indicates that a new Sam's Club has been proposed for the intersection of Gateway North and Diana Drive in El Paso's northeast. If accurate, it would be El Paso's fourth location and would help to fill a retail void for the northeast side.
The map is part of a leasing package that the Fountains developer put together to show competing retailers around the city. KFOX-14 had a short blurb about the possible new location in September of 2011, stating that the Sams's could open by August of 2012. Still, no such location has officially been announced.

New Corner Bakery, Genghis Grill Coming Soon
A new Corner Bakery Cafe is set to open soon near the intersection of Yarbrough Drive and Interstate 10 on the city's east side. The restaurant will be located at 1144 N. Yarbrough Dr. in front of Burlington Coat Factory.

Further east, a new Genghis Grill - The Mongolian Stir Fry ( will open at 1318 Zaragoza. It is a "build your own bowl, fast casual, asian stir-fry concept" and will be the first of its kind in El Paso.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Montecillo Introduces its 'Entertainment District'

A new video posted at the Montecillo smart code project website is giving us a lengthy view at what the developer is calling the Montecillo Entertainment District. No other details are included besides the video, which gives us a look at the district from several angles and provides some street-level views.

A green plaza at the center of the Entertainment District.

The district looks to be located across the street from The Venue at Montecillo buildings currently under construction. The development will fill a small valley between to large hills east of Mesa Street, and a drive will wind its way up to portions of the project above the district.

View looking east from Mesa Street.

The lower portion of the Entertainment District will be accessible via a boulevard-type drive that shoots off of Mesa Street at an angle. This portion may contain seven or eight buildings with surface, street, and structured parking areas. A central green plaza will be surrounded by zero-setback buildings.

A large escalator will take visitors to the upper portion of the district which looks to have two large buildings, one of which may be a theater or venue. Surface parking will be located behind these structures.

It is unlikely that the building designs are final. The 3D computer model has a preliminary feel about it and the elevations will most likely change and may be for illustrative purposes only. The five buildings nearest Mesa Street in particular seem to be largely devoid of details. Earlier depictions of the same area contained very different architecture and included water features.

Earlier concept of the Entertainment District on left.

It is unclear if the district will only contain commercial purposes like retail, restaurant, office, and entertainment or if it may also include residential spaces on the upper floors.

The video can be seen at the Montecillo website below. Details will be posted as they are made available.

Montecillo development website:

Website Offers Glimpse of Montecillo's Future

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Texas Tech Adds Nursing Building to MCA

The Medical Center of the Americas (MCA) will be adding a new building to its campus soon with the approval of a nursing school building by the Texas Tech University Board of Regents. The board approved the $11 Million building for the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing’s Traditional Bachelor of Science Degree and Second Degree Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs. The $11 Million is a gift from the nonprofit MCA Foundation.

Artist's rending of the future Nursing School Building.

According to the MCA's news digest, "The Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing is currently operating on leased space in downtown El Paso. The new 25,000-square-foot building will contain classrooms, specialized labs, faculty offices, support space, specialized training equipment and public art."

Proposed location of the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing Building.

The MCA Master Plan shows the Nursing School's future location at the northeast corner of Alberta Avenue and Concepcion Street, across the street from the Paul Foster School of Medicine's Medical Education Building I. No timeline has been given for construction of the project.

The Nursing School is abbreviated here as GGHSON.

Learn more about the MCA Master Plan by visiting our Master Plan Page.

Texas Tech Press Release:
MCA Synapse News Digest:
MCA Master Plan website:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Council Votes to Purchase Buildings for City Hall Relocation

In its plans to vacate City Hall to make way for a new baseball stadium, the El Paso City Council voted on Tuesday, August 7, to purchase two buildings and begin the relocation process. The first and most prominent of the two is the El Paso Times building located at 300 N. Campbell Street; it offers 83,000 square feet of relatively modern space that the City could utilize right away and includes on-site parking which City staff and visitors can use. It would cost the City approximately $11 Million to purchase.

The second building is a smaller one located at 801 Texas Avenue. At 70,000 square feet, it could house the City Development, Parks and Recreation, and Engineering Departments. This building would cost around $2.5 Million to purchase.

A third building was also under consideration but was ultimately removed from consideration by the City. The 62,400 square foot Luther Building at 218 N. Campbell Street would have cost the city $17.4 Million dollars, but Council members decided that the other two buildings provide sufficient space for City functions. It is owned by Paul Foster, one of the members of the group trying to bring a Triple-A baseball club to El Paso. The Triple-A move requires a baseball stadium to be built Downtown.

The El Paso Times has stated that they will move out of their building if it is purchased by the City. Currently, the entire second floor is vacant. The City may also try to purchase the Times owned parking lot across Campbell Street.

801 Texas Avenue
Detractors have stated that the current City Hall is still useful and should not be demolished. But the City has often said it is in dire need of repairs; current estimates point to $20-30 Million in costs to rehab City Hall.

The City will now negotiate the purchase price of the two buildings and begin relocation as soon as the purchases are final.

City Hall Relocation Analysis by TVO (PDF):

City to Decide Fate of Downtown Ballpark This Week (Updated)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Americas Interchange Five Months From Completion

The three direct connectors that are part of the current Americas Interchange project are on track to be completed by January of 2013. And the completion of all columns and the placement of all steel girders are the latest marks of progress at the $141 Million project.

The latest edition of the Americas Interchange Newsletter also states that 114 out of 114 drill shafts have been constructed, 70 out of 78 bent caps have been constructed, 291 out of 363 concrete beams have been placed, and 26 out of 76 bridge deck spans have been poured.

Bridge decks are a highlight of the August newsletter, revealing that the "Americas bridges have been designed with a service life of 100 years; however, the decks are not expected to achieve such a long life span and are typically repaired every 10 to 20 years within the life of the bridge."

No major delays have been announced, though the builder did experience unforeseen days lost due to rainy weather in July, according to the July meeting of the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority board meeting.

Americas Interchange website:

Progress Continues at Americas Interchange

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Brio, City's Bus Rapid Transit, Coming Soon

The City of El Paso's upcoming "like rail" bus rapid transit (BRT) system is nearing reality as planning for the Mesa Corridor is scheduled for completion by August 8, 2012. The Mass Transit Board received an update at its July meeting indicating that all the transit stops along Mesa have been finalized with station design also finished. Public art displayed at the stations is still pending approval. Residents will come to know the El Paso BRT as "Brio"

According to the Sun Metro website, typical RTS elements include:
· Frequent service (10 to 15 minute frequency)
· Less frequent stops (locations of stops about one mile apart)
· Branded vehicles and stations (uniquely painted buses and stations to easily identify service)
· Amenities at stops (such as real-time bus schedules)
· Signal prioritization (buses will have ability to shorten red or lengthen green traffic signals)
· Fare prepayment (save time by paying for your fare before boarding)
· Local bus feeder network (circulators take passengers to RTS stops faster to reduce overall travel time)
Conceptual image of a Mesa Corridor Brio Station.

The Brio Mesa Corridor will span 8.4 miles with 13 proposed stations with construction beginning in February of 2013. All stations along the corridor will measure 65 feet in length with protective canopies varying in size. Lighting and shade trees are part of the landscape plans for all stations. Stations and buses will also include free Wi-Fi. The route could be completed by January of 2014.
Proposed public art details for the Alameda Corridor Brio Stations.

The next Brio route in the planning stages is the Alameda Corridor which will span a much longer 15.4 miles upon completion. With 17 planned stations, this route could go to construction in April of 2013 and be completed in one year.

Two additional routes are in the initial planning stages, the Dyer Corridor and the Montana Corridor. Dyer will span 11.7 miles and have 12 stations with construction tentatively completed by September of 2015. Montana will be the longest corridor at 18.4 miles long and have 18 proposed stations. That corridor could be complete by September of 2016.
RTS buses are typically longer to allow for more passenger space

The logo and branding campaign for the Brio Rapid Transit System has not yet been finalized.

Mass Transit Board agenda:
Sun Metro RTS page:

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Border Highway Toll Lane Signage Revealed in RFP

The Cesar Chavez Border Highway will reopen completely next year with an additional lane in each direction, and a new Request for Proposals (RFP) at the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA) website is giving us an early glimpse of what type of signage the new tolled, "managed" lanes will provide. The CRRMA is overseeing construction of the project which stretches from US-54 to the Zaragoza Port of Entry.

New signs will advise commuters that the express toll lanes are ahead, and drivers will have the option of using them or remaining on the free lanes. The inside lane in each direction will be the managed lane while the two outside main lanes will remain free. Initial construction plans simply constructed new inside lanes, but community response led to the Texas Department of Transportation's decision to reconstruct the main lanes as well. New sound barrier walls are also part of the project, and landscape elements have recently been added.

Signs at toll lane entrance points will let drivers know the current toll fee to travel to the next exit point. There will be a price for those who are registered with the state's TxTag system and a different price for those who will pay the toll by mail. Presumably, those who are TxTag users will enjoy a lower rate.

Gantries located in the tollway's divider will record toll lane usage and bill drivers accordingly. The RFP is seeking a provider of "toll system integration services including design, procurement, installation, testing, operations, and maintenance services."

Construction is ongoing and scheduled to be completed in 2013.

CRRMA website:

Aldea Images Updated with More Detail

Conceptual images of the Town Center section of the upcoming Aldea smart code development that were discovered in June have been updated with more detail, helping to create a more realistic picture of what the project may eventually look like.

Most structures, landscapes, and streetscapes have been colored in, and previously blank spaces have been filled in with new details.

The layout of the Town Center area has not changed, with a fashion retail anchor, a theater, and retail liners fronting the development's tree-lined Rambla. Housing still sits to the east with a smart-code designed Walmart accessible by a large pedestrian walkway/staircase to the west.

The Rambla intersects with the future Mesa Park Boulevard in a roundabout which will be lined by two hotels and other commercial space. There will be zero setbacks along these stretches, helping the area feel like a true urban development. Tree-lined streets will help shield pedestrians from the sun.

Read more about the Aldea project in our previous posts:
Newest Aldea Master Plan Reveals Changes, Districts
Aldea Image Emerges; CA Architect Firm Lists Aldea/Montecillo as Projects
'Aldea' to Create Urban Village on West Side