Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Zoo, Museums, More Highlighted in Quality of Life Bond Election Website

Zoo, park, museum, and sports facility projects are all part of the upcoming Quality of Life propositions that will appear on the November 6 general election ballot, and a new website is making clear exactly what types of projects El Pasoans will see if the items pass: http://www.elpasobonds2012.com/.

Three items will appear on the ballot, and the website offers many details about them, including which projects fall under which propositions, the cost to an average homeowner, and details about each project.

Proposition One is worth $245 million and includes:

• New parks as well as park improvements like shade canopies, play structures, field lights, and new landscaping,
• Multiple new soccer fields, including a championship tournament field,
• The creation of new walking and biking trails, trail heads, and parking,
• Upgrades and expansion to current senior centers,
• Construction of a new, indoor competition pool facility, including a 50-meter pool, and major improvements to existing community pools, and
• Improvements to the Zoo, including an African Wildlife Theatre, a new Aquatic Exhibit, and a new Chihuahua Desert Experience.

The Zoo may see major improvements including a wildlife amphitheater to showcase demonstrations with live animals; a Chihuahua Desert exhibit, featuring rare wild and plant life native to our area, aquatic exhibits featuring South American penguins and a ray touch tank; new animals such as komodo dragons, red pandas, African painted dogs, flamingos, alligators, big cats, Asian rhinos, and birds of prey; a turtle-shaped reptile building; a large carousel featuring endangered species; an endangered species breeding center; and a Tree House Playground, Bug House, Fossil Finding Mine, and an open-air Ranch House.

Proposition Two is worth $228 million and includes:

• Significant upgrades to our libraries, including the main library and the regional facilities. It will also mean upgrades to our Bookmobiles, Techmobile, Express Libraries, and acquisition of new library materials
• Enhancements to our museums, and the construction of a new Children’s Museum.
• The installation of a “Touch City” interactive 3-D Digital Wall in our History Museum – the first wall of its kind in the United States
• A new Hispanic Cultural Center, highlighting our demographic makeup and the heritage and history of El Paso del Norte
• A new multi-purpose performing arts and entertainment facility – an enclosed, modern facility that can accommodate large-venue concerts and other events that we cannot currently handle here, such as NCAA regional basketball tournaments, major concerts, and theatrical shows.

The Children's Museum will be unlike anything the city has seen before, a brand new "30,000 square foot facility of interactive, educational exhibits with learning opportunities in the areas of science, arts, engineering, technology, and the environment." And the Multi-Purpose Arena would be built downtown and seat 17,000 people, which will help in attracting larger concerts and events that El Paso has missed out on in the past due to lack of adequate venue space.

The third proposition on the ballot would ask to approve a 2% increase in the Hotel Occupancy Tax to help pay for more than 70% of the cost of the upcoming downtown baseball stadium. (Read more about it in our post here.)

The website contains a great amount of information about each project as well as at-a-glance looks at each proposition. Also included are messages of support from the Hunt Family Foundation, infographics, and a Frequenty Asked Questions section. A copyright notice indicates the website was created by the Paso Del Norte Group.

El Paso Bonds 2012 website: http://www.elpasobonds2012.com/
Paso Del Norte Group website: http://www.pasodelnortegroup.org/

City Finalizes Quality of Life Ballot Questions
Quality of Life Items Narrowed Down; Streets Get $210M

Monday, September 24, 2012

Progress Photos: United Bank, Fountains, Downtown CVS

As progress continues on developments all around El Paso, here are some up-to-date photos on three projects. One is on the east side, and two are Downtown.

United Bank of Paso Del Norte (Downtown)

The project to transform a bland parking garage into a landmark bank/office building is moving at breakneck speed. Very little of the original structure at 401 E. Main is still visible as an outer shell has enveloped most of the building. Some steel girders are still visible, especially around what will eventually become a bell tower.

The resulting 92,000 square foot building will be of Spanish Colonial design and contain a bank on the first floor, parking on the second and third floors, and office space on the fourth and fifth levels.

Previous Update: Downtown Garage Transforming Into Bank, Office Building

The Fountains at Farah (East)

This highly anticipated Fountains at Farah project at Hawkins Boulevard and Interstate 10 continues to make progress, and structural elements are clearly coming into view. Most of the project area still looks like a lot of dirt is being moved around, but cement work can be seen in fragments throughout. Columns can easily be seen in the eastern portion of what will become the parking structure.

Along Gateway West Boulevard, the entryways are taking shape, and newer rock walls have been constructed that will support the Promenade area of the center. The 600,000 square foot center is scheduled to open in Fall of 2013.

Previous Update: Dick's Sporting Goods Joins 'Fountains' Lineup

CVS Building (Downtown)

The upcoming CVS Pharmacy project at 201 N. Mesa Street in Downtown is also making progress as crews have set up shop to prepare for renovation. The 30,000 square foot building is currently vacant, and the actual drug store should take up about 10,000 square feet of space. The structure is now fenced off as interior demolition may be taking place.

Previous Update: CVS Pharmacy May Open Downtown Location

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Glory Road SmartCode Initiative Moves Forward

The City of El Paso held its third community meeting to educate the public about an upcoming initiative that will rezone areas between Downtown and neighborhoods immediately east of the University of Texas at El Paso with SmartCode, including the historic Kern neighborhood.

City officials were on hand at the September 22, 2012 meeting to explain how the plan would affect the more than 500 acres that are included in the initiative and respond to any questions or concerns that property owners within the boundaries may have had.

The focus of the City's outreach seems to be the Kern neighborhood, letting homeowners know that, despite the zoning change occurring underneath their feet, the purpose of the rezoning initiative is not to force any changes on current properties. In fact, the T-3 zone for El Paso's SmartCode was largely influenced by the desirability of the Kern neighborhood, according to City Planner Michael McElroy, who was at the meeting to answer residents' questions.

Planner Michael McElroy
"There won't be any change to your use. Your house or your business will continue to exist in its current state," according to McElroy. "The great thing about the Kern neighborhood, in fact, is that we want it to stay the Kern neighborhood. We want other parts of El Paso to have Kern-like neighborhoods."

So it makes sense that the Kern neighborhood will have the zone of T-3, a suburban transect which reflects the area's historic look. Officials hope that this will help preserve the area's feel by preventing new housing from feeling out of place in the neighborhood. Currently, a new building in an empty lot within Kern is required to be built using the same standards seen in newer, post World War II areas. The SmartCode will assure that a new building in the old district is respectful of the history in the area, mainly with reference to building placement, setbacks, driveway placement, and size. The City does not want to limit or define architectural style or aesthetics.

Closest to Downtown, just north of Interstate 10, the area will be zoned with T-5, the second highest density transect in SmartCode. Areas along the Mesa/Oregon/Stanton corridor will be zoned T-4, a less dense but still urban use. Mesa Street nearer to UTEP will also include the denser T-5 transect.

As a state agency, UTEP is exempt from complying with any zoning requirements. But McElroy points out that UTEP's recently unveiled master plan includes many SmartCode ideals.

"What they've proposed is perfectly aligned with what we're trying to do outside of the UTEP area. So there is not conflict in terms of the vision for the area."

Oregon Street looking north towards Glory Road.
In the rezoning map, most of UTEP is code as a Special District. However, there are certain parcels within the school's boundaries coded as T-4 and T-5, particularly the old Rudolph car dealership area which the University owns. This may point to plans already in place to transform those properties.

City Staff will now present City Council representatives with their findings from the community meetings to determine whether or not a rezoning application will be created and how quickly the process will progress. The ultimate rezoning application would require approval by the full City Council.

Glory Road SmartCode Initiative at the Plan El Paso website: http://planelpaso.org/2012/08/glory-road-rezoning-information-resident-resources/

Kern, UTEP Areas May See Next Smart Code Initiative
UTEP Unveils Campus 'Transformation' Images

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dick's Sporting Goods Joins 'Fountains' Lineup

Dick's Sporting Goods could be next in the tenant lineup for the upcoming Fountains at Farah shopping center. That's according to a press release for a property leasing/management company which states that Dick's has signed a lease with the Fountains for a 50,018 square foot space.

The store joins two previously announced tenants, Nordstrom Rack and Best Buy. Nordstrom Rack will operate a 35,000 square foot space in the eastern section of the center, while Best Buy will occupy 37,740 square feet, most likely adjacent to Dick's in the western section of the big box upper level.

The Fountains at Farah, located at the corner of Hawkins Boulevard and Interstate 10, will open in Fall of 2013 and is being developed by Centergy Retail of Dallas.

Dick's Sporting Goods was founded in 1948 and now operates more than 450 stores in 42 states. Headquartered in Pennsylvania, the company posted $5 billion in revenue in 2011.

NewQuest Properties press release: http://www.newquest.com/News/86/NewQuest-Properties-Announces-Commercial-Leases-in-Houston-Katy--El-Paso-TX
Dick's Sporting Goods website: http://www.dickssportinggoods.com/home/index.jsp
Fountains at Farah website: http://fountainsatfarah.com/

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

Thursday, September 20, 2012

No Ballpark Veto; Next Steps for Downtown Stadium

Mayor John Cook announced today that he will not use his veto power to overturn the City's contract for a new $50 million Downtown baseball stadium. The announcement all but guarantees that Triple-A baseball is coming to the City, and City Hall will be vacated and demolished early next year to make room for the 9,000 seat ballpark.

The announcement came at noon in an exclusive live interview with KVIA reporter Darren Hunt and simultaneously at the City's website where the mayor released an official statement. According to media reports, the mayor had provided a tentative veto to the City Attorney's office before leaving El Paso on a road trip, but hadn't yet decided whether or not to veto. In the end, Mayor Cook decided it was in the city's best interest not to veto the baseball contract.

Mayor's Statement

In his statement, the mayor cited three reasons for making this decision. The first was changing his consideration of the baseball stadium and seeing it not as a quality-of-life project but as an economic development project, which City Council often approves, not the voting public.

The second reason was the realization that his preferred location for the stadium, between the convention center and Paisano Drive, would involve acquiring 38 different properties at a cost of around $25 million and most likely require the usage of Eminent Domain, which could be a very drawn out process. City Hall's most recent appraisal at $13 million was much lower than previous estimates and comparable to similarly-sized building in Downtown.

Future Baseball Stadium Site
And the third reason cited by the mayor was his concern that opposition to the ballpark would hurt Quality of Life bond items slated for the November ballot, feeling that the groups in support of the ballpark are also in favor of the Quality of Life projects which the mayor supports.

Next Steps

Now that the drama surrounding the City Council vote and Mayor Cook's possible veto has passed, the City and MountainStar Sports group will take their respective next steps in making Triple-A baseball a reality in 2014.

MountainStar Sports group now awaits the Pacific Coast League's ultimate stamp of approval that will allow the sale of the Triple-A club to be finalized, ensuring the team's acquisition is a done deal. Members of the group, including Paul Foster and Josh Hunt, have indicated that this step may take place any day now.

The City will now move to finalize purchases of buildings in other parts of Downtown which will house City departments. This includes the El Paso Times building at 300 N. Campbell Street and another at 801-811 E. Texas Ave. The City will also be working on the contract for a design architect, creating demolition and utility relocation plan packages for City Hall, and finalizing relocation plans.

City Manager Joyce Wilson has stated that she hopes to be completely out of City Hall by early 2013 at which time demolition could begin, leading to a tight schedule for ultimate construction of the baseball stadium. In construction terms, 2014 is not very far away.

HOT Ballot Issue

One of the most important pieces of the baseball puzzle may be the upcoming ballot item that could help pay for the great majority of the baseball stadium. An item in the November election will ask voters to approve a 2% increase in the Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT), which hotel patrons will pay while staying in hotels in the city. In El Paso, this amounts to an average of $1.40 more on a night's stay per hotel room. If the item does not pass, the City will be forced to look elsewhere to fund the stadium's construction.

Read more about the HOT ballot item in our post here.

Mayor's Statement (PDF): http://home.elpasotexas.gov/ballpark/documents/Mayor-%20Ballpark.pdf
City's Next Steps (PDF): http://home.elpasotexas.gov/ballpark/documents/Ballpark%20next%20steps.pdf

Rep. Acosta, Mayor Cook May Wreck Ballpark Deal
Ballpark Update: Paul Foster May Donate Luther Building
City Finalizes Quality of Life Ballot Questions
Council Votes to Purchase Buildings for City Hall Relocation
City to Decide Fate of Downtown Ballpark This Week (Updated)
City May Demolish City Hall for Ballpark

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rep. Acosta, Mayor Cook May Wreck Ballpark Deal

District 3 Rep. Emma Acosta 
Update: City Council voted 4-3 on most baseball-related items, with Emma Acosta, Carl Robinson, and Eddie Holguin voting 'No.' With the approval, Mayor John Cook has five days to veto the measure, though he has stated to the media that he will issue a statement regarding his coming decision either on Wednesday or Thursday. Most await the mayor's decision anxiously...

Original Post:

City Council Representative Emma Acosta could be the wrench that tears apart the deal to bring a Triple-A baseball club to El Paso. In recent days, the District 3 Rep. has stated that she may vote against City Council items intended to seal the deal and bring a new baseball stadium to Downtown, including the contract with MountainStar Sports, the group working to bring the ball club to El Paso.

Last week, the group agreed to changes in the contract that Acosta had previously stated would strengthen her support. This includes changes that would bump up the surcharge paid to the City from $0.10 to $0.50 per ticket, increase rent paid to the City by 10% every five years, and remove a non-compete clause which would have prevented other baseball teams from leasing city-owned properties. The last concession allows the Diablos to continue to operate at Cohen Stadium.

Despite the changes, Rep. Acosta has now stated to the El Paso Times that she may still vote against the deal. Without her vote, the baseball-related items on the Council agenda should still pass with a 5-3 vote. However, Mayor John Cook has stated he does not like the idea of demolishing City Hall and may veto the contract deal. If so, Council would need a 6-2 vote to override the Mayor's veto, which would not be possible without Rep. Acosta's vote.

Concept of El Paso baseball stadium
by Populous.
If the Triple-A deal falls through, the club's current owners and Pacific Coast League officials could lose faith in El Paso's desire to acquire the team and look elsewhere for groups interested in buying the ball club. In addition, the Mayor and Representative's actions may extinguish all the work done by the local group trying to bring the team to El Paso, which includes helping Downtown's revitalization with a new 9,000 seat stadium. MountainStar Sports is spending tens of millions of dollars of its own money to buy the team and has stated it will donate any profits from ticket sales to local charities.

Populous-designed Triple-A Ballpark
in Buffalo, New York.
Downtown investors could also rethink their strategies if this course destroys hopes that the baseball stadium would help the area become a more dynamic place. Each home game would draw thousands of spectators to the City's core.

It is unclear how MountainStar Sports' recent changes may affect Mayor John Cook's position and if the changes have decreased the possibility of a veto. The Mayor and City Representatives will review the above items at the September 18, 2012 Council meeting.

Triple-A Baseball Support Site: http://loveelpasotriplea.com/
City Council Agenda: http://www.elpasotexas.gov/muni_clerk/city_council.asp?agenda=09-18-12&addition=false
El Paso Times article: http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_21555232/concessions-downtown-el-paso-stadium-but-no-deal

Ballpark Update: Paul Foster May Donate Luther Building
City Finalizes Quality of Life Ballot Questions
Council Votes to Purchase Buildings for City Hall Relocation
City to Decide Fate of Downtown Ballpark This Week (Updated)
City May Demolish City Hall for Ballpark

Ballpark Update: Paul Foster May Donate Luther Building

The City of El Paso could get a sizable gift in the form of the Luther Building at its upcoming City Council meeting. Among the many baseball stadium-related items the City will consider at its September 18, 2012 meeting, one deals with the possible donation of the building to the City by Paul Foster. The City must find Downtown buildings for relocation of City departments so that City Hall may be demolished to make room for a Triple-A ballpark.

The Luther Building is outlined in yellow.
The Luther Building, located at 218 N. Campbell Street, was originally considered for purchase by the City in July, but was removed from consideration when other building options opened up. At the time, the City could have purchased the 62,400 square foot building for $17.4 million after thorough renovations were promised on the seller's side. Now, the City may get the building for free but with no improvements to its current condition.

The building is located directly across E. Mills Avenue from the El Paso Times building, which the City is also considering for purchase. An item to purchase the Times building was originally on the September 18 agenda but was postponed due to appraisal inconsistencies.

Paul Foster is one of the members of the group trying to bring the Triple-A baseball club to El Paso.

Council Votes to Purchase Buildings for City Hall Relocation
City to Decide Fate of Downtown Ballpark This Week (Updated)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mesa Project to Replace Building Lost to Fire

An empty lot which once housed a historic building that was lost to fire last year will see new life, according to a special permit application on the City Plan Commission agenda. The building formerly at 906 N. Mesa Street was destroyed by fire on May 17, 2011 and was demolished by the city days later after a partial collapse of the top floor. The building was vacant at the time.

Elevations for planned office building.
The owner of the property has now submitted documents showing a new 9,800 square foot office building that is planned for the site. Plans show three levels, two upper floors which will be used for office space, and a basement/ground level which will provide parking.

Former building destroyed by fire.
Elevations in the application show that the owner will try to maintain a historic feel in the new building, perhaps as a gesture of good faith in light of the loss of the previous building. The facade of this building will be reminiscent of many historic Downtown structures.

No timeline for construction is provided in the special permit application. The City Plan Commission will hear the item at its September 20, 2012 meeting.

City Plan Commission Agenda: http://www.elpasotexas.gov/econdev/preview_mtng.asp?meetingid=1739
El Paso Times story which covered the fire: Abandoned Downtown building demolished after late-night blaze

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Smart Code, Master Plan Coming to Airport Land

An industrial area southwest of the El Paso International Airport and commercial areas along Montana Avenue could soon be rezoned to Smart Code, according to an zoning application on the City Plan Commission agenda. The Southern Industrial Park Master Plan envisions pedestrian friendly streets with retailers and restaurants lining the sidewalks, architecturally interesting courtyard hotels with hidden parking, and a 450,000 square foot business conference center, all in a 300+ acre area owned by the airport.

View looking northwest over High Street. A courtyard hotel is in the foreground.
The plan, developed by Placemakers LLC, focuses on two "pedestrian sheds" that lie to the south of the main international airport. The first area is bounded by Airway Boulevard to the east and north, Airport Boulevard to the west, and Montana Avenue to the south. This area would see the densest development.

Full build-out shown on the right.
The main north-south arterial is referred to as High Street in the plan, and would require storefronts along most of the roadway. Retail stores, restaurants, hotels, and office buildings would line the route, which would stretch from Montana Avenue, north past Airway Boulevard, and all the way to a new rental car parking garage that would be adjacent to the main airport terminal. High Street would in no way be a straight shot and instead take a meandering route through the master planned area.

Required High Street storefronts are lined in red.
A business conference center could also be located in this area with between 215,000 and 450,000 square feet dedicated to this use. The conceptual plan shows the location of the center along the Airway Boulevard curve. 

Business Center Options
Concept plans for hotels located in the plan area would require a "courtyard" design, with the building facades lining the streets. Hotel occupants would have immediate access to High Street activities, including restaurants, shopping, and entertainment.

Towers could help draw visitors travelling along Montana Ave.
The second, less dense area consists of parcels between Montana Avenue and Boeing Drive, from Airway Boulevard to Hawkins Boulevard. Commercial and industrial uses would be maintained, but buildings would be re-oriented to line the sidewalk along Lockheed Drive, which runs immediately parallel to Montana Avenue. 

Buildings along Montana Avenue, east of Airway.
The entire project would be built in phases, mostly to accommodate the expiration of current leases the airport has with tenants already occupying the area. Some vacant parcels are ready for development, while the leases on others expire anywhere between one and 16 years from 2012. 

A phasing concept for the more dense area of the plan.
The City Plan Commission will vote on the rezoning application at its September 20, 2012 meeting. If approved, it will go to City Council for a final vote. Due to Federal Aviation Administration regulations, residential uses are not allowed on airport land.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

City Opts for Restored Streetcars

City Council has voted to restore El Paso's old streetcars instead of purchasing brand new replica streetcars for the upcoming trolley project that will run from Downtown to UTEP and back. The City also decided at the September 11, 2012 Council meeting to shorten the northern limit to Glory Road and nix the option to run the line further north to the Mesita Elementary School area.

Former El Paso streetcars that may be restored.
The City will use the savings from the shortened route to improve the pedestrian experience along the corridor and to help pay for the more expensive restored streetcars. The contract with URS Corporation was also expanded to include all engineering and design services needed for the project.

Proposed Streetcar Route
Read more about the use of restored streetcars at the Living El Paso blog here:
PCC Streetcars in El Paso…What are they like?

Council Chooses Streetcar Route
Council to Choose Trolley Route
Trolley Project Could Get $90M in TxDOT Funds
Push for Trolley System Re-Emerges

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Carmike First 'El Cruzero' Tenant?

Carmike Cinemas Inc. has announced a new El Paso location that is planned for the far east area of the city in what could be the El Cruzero smart code development at the corner of Montana Avenue and Loop 375. A 13-screen multiplex will be an anchor tenant at a "230 acre multi-use planned development" at the northeast corner of the intersection in the fast growing section of the city. That's according to a September 11, 2012 press release from the company.

El Cruzero location at the northeast corner of Montana Ave. and Loop 375.
The press release never mentions the El Cruzero project by name, but the location and size indicate that the theater will be built at this development. Past El Cruzero details have included a size of 228 acres; maps showing the development's location and breadth include the area referenced by Carmike in their press release. A multiplex would complement the town center area of the smart code development, which would be located across Montana Avenue from a shopping center containing a Walmart and Lowe's Home Improvement store.

This would be the first announced tenant at the project and may have been forced due to a statement last week by the Cinemark theater chain that a new 14-screen theater would go up just one mile to the east in the Hueco Club Estates subdivision.

Dallas-based Anthony Properties is developing the site, according to the press release, and states, "New construction at Fort Bliss, proximity to the planned Army Medical Campus and the future El Paso Community College Campus make this a prime site that will attract additional top-tier retail, restaurant and commercial tenants to the area." No time frame has been given for construction of the theater.

Carmike Cinemas Press Release: http://on.mktw.net/U71L8W

El Cruzero to Transform Far East El Paso Desert
El Cruzero Reveals Progress, Gets Extension
14-Screen Multiplex Planned for Far East EP

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Kern, UTEP Areas May See Next Smart Code Initiative

Preliminary zoning plan in the Glory Road SmartCode initiative.
The City will hold a community meeting on Saturday, September 22, 2012 to answer residents' questions concerning the Glory Road SmartCode initiative, a plan to bring Smart Code zoning to areas around the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). This includes the historic Kern neighborhood, the Cincinnati district, Mesa Street north to Sun Bowl Drive, and the Mesa/Oregon/Stanton corridor south to I-10 at the norther edge of Downtown.

Oregon Street looking north to Glory Road.
 A total of 563 acres are included in the effort and will include multiple Smart Code transects, which are zones that define density and building guidelines. 110 of those acres are coded as T5, which is the second-highest density in Smart Code, and targets areas around Mesa Street and the Glory Road Transit Station, and several blocks nearest Downtown.

Mesa Street at Cincinnati Avenue
The Kern neighborhood would receive an overlay of T3, which is a suburban zone, mainly to preserve the historic homes in the area for residential uses. Most properties belonging to UTEP would be considered Special Districts and not subject to coding requirements.

Benefits of Smart Code include:

• Creating a variety of housing choices,
• Creating walkable communities,
• Fostering diverse attractive communities,
• Mixed land uses,
• Preserving open space and critical areas,
• Providing transportation choices,
• Directing development to existing communities, and
• Creating compact building design.

The meeting for the City's Glory Road Smart Code initiative is September 22  from 9 AM to 12 Noon at Mesita Elementary School, which is located at 3307 N. Stanton Street. This is an informal meeting with officials available to answer any questions. No presentation will be made.

Glory Road Rezoning page at Plan El Paso: http://planelpaso.org/2012/08/glory-road-rezoning-information-resident-resources/

City Adopts 'Plan El Paso'

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

14-Screen Multiplex Planned for Far East EP

The Cinemark movie theater chain has announced a brand new cinema complex planned for El Paso's far east side. A 14 screen multiplex will go up at the southeast corner of Rich Beem Boulevard and Montana Avenue, just over one mile east of Loop 375.

Cinemark plans to construct its new "NextGen" style theater at the site, which includes:

•State-of-the-art viewing environment with wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor screens available in all auditoriums
•4K digital projection powered by Barco projectors; RealD 3D capability
•Enhanced, sound systems that will enable customers to hear the movie as the filmmakers intended
•Cinemark's innovative self-serve concession stand - offering freshly-popped popcorn, Coca-Cola fountain beverages and favorite candy brands
•Cinemark XD:Extreme Digital Cinema auditorium

Future location of a 14 screen Cinemark NextGen theater.

Cinemark already has three other theaters in El Paso, Tinseltown USA at Las Palmas Marketplace, Cinemark Cielo Vista in east central El Paso, and Cinemark West at Remcon Circle. The future location is nestled in El Paso's fastest growing area and is near the future El Cruzero smart code development.

No timeline was given for construction in Cinemark's press release.

Press Release: http://www.cinemark.com/pressreleasedetail.aspx?node_id=78225

El Cruzero to Transform Far East El Paso Desert

Mixed Use Planned for Commercial Block Near UTEP

A mixed-use project is planned for an entire block located near the University of Texas at El Paso and bounded by Mesa Street, Robinson Avenue, Oregon Street, and Boston Avenue. A rezoning application with the City Plan Commission indicates that the development will include retail, office, restaurant and residential uses.

Two buildings currently stand on the property with the majority of the space taken up by surface parking lots. The site plan seems to indicate that the larger of the current buildings, a four level office space, may lose the front half of the building to allow for more parking along Mesa Street. An additional three buildings are planned, with one sandwiched in between the two existing buildings and another two going up on the western half of the block. These two will have zero setbacks along Oregon Street.

The site plan also shows various walkways, the largest of which will take over the current alley cutting down the middle of the project. Plazas are planned as transitional areas between buildings. Boston Avenue will also be vacated of through traffic, blocking off access from Oregon Street. This vacation was approved by the City in 2009.

No time frame is included in the rezoning application. Mesa Street Grill currently occupies the existing building in the northeastern corner of the site.

City Plan Commission agenda: http://www.elpasotexas.gov/econdev/preview_mtng.asp?meetingid=1732