Friday, November 30, 2012

NE El Paso Next In Line for SmartCode

A 451-acre plot of land in Northeast El Paso could be next in line for SmartCode zoning. That's according to a rezoning application that the City Plan Commission will hear at its December 6, 2012 meeting.

The land will be divided into three "New Community, Traditional Neighborhood Developments" which will split the acreage into three pedestrian sheds. A pedestrian shed is an area that defines the distance a pedestrian can walk in five minutes. This, along with interconnected blocks, bike paths, and greenways will encourage walkability within the development. 

The development will be split into three neighborhoods.
The project will be interspersed with civic buildings, playgrounds, and shopfronts, and will focus on creating terminating vistas throughout. Plazas and main squares will be placed strategically within the neighborhoods. A transit center is also planned for the development.

The land, owned by the City of El Paso and managed by the Public Service Board, is located along the southern edge of US-54 east of McCombs Street. Once rezoning is approved, the City may move to hire a master developer, though no timeline is available for the project. The plan was developed by URS Corporation, the same firm that is helping plan the retirement community just north of this project.

Related: NE Retirement Community Could Spring Up By 2013

City Plan Commission agenda:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Another Historic Downtown Bldg Could Be Demolished

The owner of the historic Union Bank & Trust Building at 104-106 East San Antonio Avenue in downtown El Paso is requesting a Certificate of Demolition from the City's Historic Landmark Commission (HLC). Next door, the First National Bank Building, which once housed the offices of John Wesley Hardin, burned down in April of 2012.

The applicant, River Oaks Properties, owns both properties and has submitted a report from engineering firm HKN Engineers which states that the two buildings shared a wall and that the earlier fire has caused damage to the surviving building. The report goes on to say that the building is in "imminent risk of structural failure," and that demolition is the suggested option considering the "high cost of structural retrofit."

Despite the engineering report, the agenda item recommends denial of the application, stating, "The property has been altered but it is still the embodiment of distinguished characteristics of an architectural type or specimen; can still be identified as the work of an architect or master builder whose individual work has influenced the development of the city; and still embodies distinguished elements of architectural design, detail, materials or craftsmanship which represent a significant architectural innovation."

The application will be heard at the HLC's November 19, 2012, meeting, less than one week after City Council approved the demolition of the Henry Trost designed Muir Building at 230 N. Mesa Street. That application for demolition was originally denied by the HLC, but Council voted unanimously to override that decision. The property's owner, Borderplex Community Trust, has promised a mixed-use development at the location but has divulged few other details. If River Oaks' application for demolition is denied, they can also appeal directly to the City Council.

Aftermath of destructive fire at the First Nat'l Bank building.
Previously: Demolition Denied for Downtown Trost Building (Update: Approved by Council)

HLC Agenda Item (PDF):

Saturday, November 10, 2012

East EP Cinemark Site Plan Revealed

A Detailed Site Development Plan Application on the City Plan Commission's next agenda is offering a glimpse of what the future far east El Paso Cinemark Theater site will look like. The site plan shows a 53,665 square foot movie theater building, a 23,265 square foot office building, and five retail buildings totaling 49,529 square feet. The center will be located at the corner of Montana Avenue and Rich Beem Boulevard.

The buildings are laid out in a traditional shopping center format; each structure is surrounded by large parking areas. The 14-screen theater will be located on the southern end of the property, nearest the Hueco Club Estates residential area to the south. Four retail buildings will run parallel to Montana Avenue while another will align with Rich Beem Boulevard. The office building will be centered on the eastern portion of the site.

Southwest Land Development of El Paso is developing the 20 acre shopping center, which is part of the larger Hueco Club Estates development, a residential subdivision which is using SmartCode principles in its design. This includes making the neighborhoods more walkable and incorporating alleys for rear garage access for homes.

The center itself, however, follows a more traditional layout, but does incorporate a large amount of shade trees which could be helpful for pedestrians. The City does recommend including more shade trees and widening the sidewalk along Tierra Rancho Street to the south, which would create a friendlier environment for pedestrians coming from the residential area.

The development could break ground in the coming months and could be open by the end of 2013. The City Plan Commission will consider the Application at its November 15, 2012, meeting.

City Plan Commission Agenda:

14-Screen Multiplex Planned for Far East EP
Carmike First 'El Cruzero' Tenant?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Americas Interchange Nearing Opening

The long awaited Americas Interchange at Interstate 10 and Loop 375 is about two months away from opening to the public, and the latest newsletter from the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA) states that the finishing touches are being put on the three direct connectors that make up this phase of the project.

According to the newsletter, the following items are on track to be completed in the next two months:

• Final deck pours for the EBNB direct connector are scheduled for November;
• Grooving the bridge deck will continue;
• Placing concrete barrier rail for bridges & ramps;
• Placing sidewalks;
• Painting of all three direct connectors;
• Entering the final stages of construction for the embankments on the Joe Battle frontage roads north of Rojas; and
• Final asphalt pavement is scheduled to take place throughout the month.

The $141 million (revised) project is scheduled for completion in January 2013. The CRRMA is working on finding funding for the five remaining direct connector ramps.

Americas Interchange website:

Previously: Americas Interchange Will Open in Three Months

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Essential Posts: March 2012

Our blog came to life back in February of 2012, and there have been over 100 posts so far! Here are some of the posts we believe are definitely worth reading (again) and a few you may have missed, listed here for easy access.

This second edition includes stories from March of 2012, our second month. Every week, we'll highlight months from earlier in the year, just in case our readers may have missed some interesting stories. Click on each headline to jump to the original post.

Painted Dunes Retirement Community Plans Move Forward

The El Paso Public Service Board (PSB) will view updated plans at its March 5 meeting for a retirement community that could be built adjacent to Painted Dunes golf course in Northeast El Paso. The development would contain anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 housing units which would include condominiums, townhomes, and detached homes and would mainly target retired military for its residential makeup.

Council Approves Artspace Project at Old Saddleblanket

City Council voted on Tuesday to approve the sale of the old Saddleblanket building at 601 N. Oregon to Keystone Properties who will then donate it to the El Paso Community Foundation (EPCF) in order to create the Artspace project the City has been seeking for years. EPCF hopes a five-story 50 to 70 unit building will be constructed on the property by Artspace, an organization dedicated to developing low-rent housing with studio and gallery space for artists.

City Adopts 'Plan El Paso'

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. 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.

Northwest Plan Doubles Open Space, Adds 'Villages'

One major change is the amount of open space in the plan, which has increased to 65%, up from only 32% in the previous plan. This means that the amount of develop-able land has decreased from 1,182 acres to 824 acres. Despite the decrease in land that can be used for development, changes in zoning and density account for an actual increase in housing units, population, and employment options in the new plan.

UTEP Plan Shows Schuster Realignment

The UTEP Master Plan, unveiled last year, shows massive changes, including a doubling of building space, removing vehicular traffic from the campus core, and a realignment of Schuster Avenue which will move it southward and create an overpass at I-10. In the new plan, Schuster continues westward in a nearly straight line, crossing I-10 via a new overpass that the City has said it supports.

'Aldea' to Create Urban Village on West Side

A new 204 acre urban town center development should break ground in the next couple of years on the west side in an area bounded by I-10, Executive Center Blvd, and Mesa Street. Aldea El Paso will be a large, mixed-use, smart code development which will include commercial/retail, hotels, housing, restaurants, and entertainment. This is not to be confused with the ongoing Montecillo construction, which is adjacent to this property, immediately to the north. They are two different projects.

The Essential Posts: February 2012

Thursday, November 1, 2012

City to Buy Texas Ave Bldgs, Revamp Luther Bldg

City Council may vote next week to finalize the purchase of two buildings at 801 and 811 Texas Avenue in downtown El Paso in order to continue with the relocation of City offices. Additionally, the Council will consider allocating funds to renovating the donated Luther Building for more space, all in hopes of vacating the current City Hall site to make way for an upcoming Triple-A baseball stadium.

801 Texas Avenue Building
Two items on the Council's agenda relate to the purchase of the Texas Avenue buildings, which will house the City Development Department. The first item is to approve the purchase of the building for $2.3 million, while the second item will move to select Mijares Mora Architects for the rehabilitation of the building to modern standards. The main building and the annex contain a combined 68,000 square feet of space.

The City also hopes to approve expenditures of $8.86 million to renovate the Luther Building at 300 N. Campbell which was donated to the City by Paul Foster. According to the agenda item, money will be used which was previously allocated to other projects but which is now available because the projects are not proceeding, have been completed, or have been funded through other programs. The City may choose In*Situ Architecture of El Paso as the architect on this project on a separate agenda item.

There is no agenda item to purchase the El Paso Times building as the City had previously considered doing. It is unclear if the City has scrapped that plan in favor of rehabilitating the Luther Building. The City is on a tight schedule and hopes to vacate the current City Hall site by early 2013. Construction on the stadium must be complete by April 2014.

City Council agenda:
Mijares Mora Architects website:
In*Situ Architecture website:

Glimpse of Ballpark Plans Included in Council Agenda
Triple-A Club, Ballpark Debut New Website
No Ballpark Veto; Next Steps for Downtown Stadium
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