Thursday, December 27, 2012

See Concept Design of Downtown Starbucks

Starbucks Coffee will be one of the newest national chains to open a downtown El Paso location, and now conceptual images of what the shop may look like can be found at the architect's Facebook page.

Located in the Centre Building, between the Mills Building and the Plaza Theater, this Starbucks location is slated to open in Spring 2013, according to In*Situ Architecture. A new fine dining establishment, Anson 11, will be next door to the coffee shop in the Mills Building.

In*Situ Facebook page:
Anson 11 website:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

City Eyes Five Points for SmartCode

The City of El Paso would like to bring SmartCode zoning to the historic Five Points neighborhood in the city's center, and a public meeting was held last month to educate residents on the process and what it means.

The current state of Five Points (left) shows too many empty lots and no pedestrian amenities.
According to a list of questions and answers on the Plan El Paso website, the SmartCode zone would only dictate form and not a property's use. SmartCode would require construction of a buildings to follow guidelines with respect to setbacks and density, but would not dictate exactly what function the building would serve.

SmartCode would also help to preserve the neighborhood as well as possibly bring amenities like mixed-use buildings, street trees, pedestrian-friendly areas, higher density development, and bikes lanes to the area. The plan's focus is to improve quality of life by enhancing the urban feel of Five Points and to increase desirability to draw residents back to the area.

Mixed-use buildings near the Five Points Transit Terminal.
Census figures show that the population of the Five Points neighborhood went from 6,385 in 1990 to 5,214 in 2010. Central El Paso as a whole lost over 23,000 residents in the same 20 years, which has led to divestment in the city's core. To encourage renewed investment, the City could possibly offer incentives to new developments within a defined area, such as tax rebates and fee waivers.

No timeline is available for implementation of the SmartCode rezoning plan.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Artspace Concept Pics Show Modern Design

The future Artspace building planned for Downtown El Paso could have modern look and use yellow as the main accent color. That's according to several concept pictures posted to the In*Situ Architecture Facebook page, the architecture firm chosen to help design the five-story structure.

The images show the proposed building from several angles. It will take up a half-block of downtown space at 601 North Oregon Street, the former location of the El Paso Saddleblanket retail outlet. The old store had long stood abandoned alongside the new Doubletree Hotel and was demolished earlier this year.

In March 2012, the City approved a contract to develop the Artspace project, with the help of the El Paso Community Foundation who will oversee the project. According to the Artspace El Paso website, the building will "be ringed by 15+ roll-up, kiosk-style micro-galleries for artists and creative businesses, forming an outdoor 'art walk.' The interior will blend 50 - 70 live/work units for artists and their families with 7,500 square feet of multi-purpose non-profit space."

No concrete timeline has been given for the project.

Council Approves Artspace Project at Old Saddleblanket
City Eyeing Old Saddleblanket For Artspace Project

In*Situ Architecture website:
In*Situ Facebook page:
Artspace El Paso website:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fountains at Farah Project 'Going at Full Tilt'

A recent blog post at the EMJ Construction website describes construction at the Fountains at Farah as "going at full tilt" with a target opening date of October 2013. EMJ Construction is the general contractor on the project.

Concrete beams will support the upper level of the parking structure.
Over 300 workers are on site daily, according to the post, with 2500 to 4000 yards of concrete poured per week. According to the blog, the Fountains at Farah development is the "largest ground-up new retail project under construction in the state of Texas and west of the Mississippi River."

Retail shops and restaurants will line the front of the garage.
EMJ Construction blog post:

Previously: 'Fountains' Progress Continues

Sunday, December 9, 2012

City to Improve Pedestrian/Bicycle Access Around UTEP, Convention Center

The City of El Paso will submit four different applications to the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) for the 2012 Texas Transportation Enhancement Program Call for Projects, each improving walkability and bicycling standards along city streets. Three projects focus on access points to the University of Texas at El Paso, and one targets Santa Fe Street from I-10 to the Convention Center.

University Avenue Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvement Project - This project will affect access along three blocks of University Avenue from Stanton Street to the Hilton Garden Inn. It includes the installation of a landscaped median dividing vehicular traffic into one lane in each direction, considered traffic-calming. Over 500 feet of a bicycle lane will also be added. Also included will be 16 street trees per block, 16 pedestrian lighting units per block, and four benches per block. Crosswalks will consist of stamped concrete, and sidewalks will be six feet wide.

Hawthorne Street Pedestrian and Bicycle Project - This project includes two blocks of Hawthorne Street between Rim Road and Crosby Avenue. Two bicycle lanes are included, one in each direction along this stretch. Also included will be 16 street trees per block, 16 street lamps per block, and two benches per block. Parking will be limited to the eastern side of Hawthorne Street. A large textured and stained concrete medallion will occupy the intersection of Hawthorne and Rim. 

Lawton Drive Pedestrian Improvement Project - This project affects 875 feet of Lawton Drive near the UTEP campus, between Schuster and Prospect Avenues. It includes 20 street trees, 42 street lamps, and treated concrete crosswalks. Marked street parking spaces will line both sides of the roadway.

Santa Fe Street Pedestrian Improvement Project - The project supports "the development of a pedestrian-oriented corridor along Santa Fe extending from San Antonio Ave. to Missouri Ave," about four blocks in length. It includes 63 street trees, 27 street lamps, and treated concrete crosswalks. A tapered median will also be constructed on Santa Fe Street beginning just north of San Antonio Avenue. The right of way along the upcoming baseball stadium is not part of this project.

If approved by TXDOT, the State will reimburse the City the state portion of the cost. The City would complete the projects within four years of approval. The projects around UTEP would mirror the University's plans to improve walkability around campus. 

TXDOT Transportation Enhancement Program website:

Asarco Smokestack Demolition Plan Moves Forward

The trustee for the Asarco property stated last week that the demolition of the controversial smokestacks will move forward. Roberto Puga expressed his commendation to the Save the Stacks grassroots group for their efforts in preserving the iconic columns, but made clear that the deadline for the group to present a viable preservation plan had passed with no plan received by the trust. Mr. Puga made his statements in a press release at the Asarco trust website.

In November 2011, the trustee opted to give the Save the Stacks group 12 months to come up with a way to preserve the smokestacks, including finding a way to finance the endeavor. Late last month, the group attempted to have El Paso City Council designate the stacks as city monuments, which would have required the City to fund their upkeep. The City, however, decided to support the group's efforts in name only, not financially.

Trust's concept land use plan for the Asarco West property.
Mr. Puga has argued that keeping the stacks would make it exceedingly difficult to market the property to potential buyers. Presentations to city groups have shown examples of prosperity on former Asarco land in other parts of the country, specifically at locales where smokestacks were torn down.

Former Asarco site in Omaha, Nebraska.
Now, demolition is imminent, and planning will continue to ensure the stacks are destroyed next year. The trust's plans include a concept of a memorial plaza at the site of the largest smokestack. The lower twenty to thirty feet of the stack would be preserved and surrounded by a fountain. Another concept shows a roundabout surrounding the stack's footprint.

Street-level view of a potential memorial where the largest stack now stands.
Related: Asarco Ready for Development in 2015, Stacks or No Stacks

Asarco Trustee website:

Friday, December 7, 2012

Americas Interchange Phase 1 Nearing End; Phase 2 Coming Soon

The long awaited Americas Interchange will open to traffic in one month, and the construction of additional direct connector ramps will soon follow. The newest edition of the Americas Interchange Newsletter highlights the work Americas Gateway Builders has accomplished in building the first three ramps of the massive project and also provides a peak at an additional three ramps that could start construction soon.

Phase One, consisting of three direct connectors between Interstate 10 and Loop 375, is slated for completion in January of 2013 but could open to the public before the end of December of this year. Major work on the project includes:

♢ Three bridges,
♢ Two exit ramps from I-10 (one in each direction),
♢ Five embankments,
♢ Fourteen retaining walls,
♢ Resurfacing of the intersection at Joe Battle and Rojas,
♢ Resurfacing of signi´Čücant stretches of frontage roads,
♢ Frontage ramp below the Southbound to Westbound direct connector,
♢ Improved drainage, and
♢ Relocation of utilities.

Phase Two will also consist of building three direct connectors, Westbound I-10 to Northbound Loop 375, Westbound I-10 to Southbound Loop 375, and Eastbound I-10 to Southbound Loop 375. The contract for the project has been awarded to J.D. Abrams of Austin. No timeline has been given, but a project page at the J.D. Abrams website indicates a possible completion date of December 2013.

Previously: Americas Interchange Nearing Opening

Americas Interchange website:
J.D. Abrams website:

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Ballpark Concept Videos Added to City's Website

The City of El Paso has added two short videos to its Downtown Ballpark page showing conceptual views from within and above the proposed stadium. Additional details have also been added, such as the firms selected so far to assist the City in constructing the stadium that will house El Paso's Triple-A baseball team.

View looking west from the Santa Fe Street side of the stadium.
The videos allow a closer look at the conceptual images already released by Populous Inc., the project's principal architect. The first video offers a field-level perspective, beginning at the eastern edge of the field underneath the planned grandstand, travelling to the middle of the park, and turning clockwise to offer a 360 degree view of the stadium.

Eastward view overlooking the outfield.
The second video provides a bird's eye view of the park, swooping around the perimeter for a complete look from outside the walls. This perspective offers a look at previously mentioned amenities, including a grassy seating area in the outfield, a "party zone" located in the outer grandstand, and multiple access points for fans to use.

Firms listed as involved in the project include:

• Populous, Inc. (Kansas City, MO) - Principal Architect
• MNK Architects (El Paso, TX) - Local Architect /LEED Accredited Professional
• W. P. Moore (El Paso, TX) - Civil, Traffic, Structural
• Robert Navarro (El Paso, TX) - Structural
• Henderson Engineering (Lenexa, KS) – Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing
• Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon &Williams (Dallas, TX) – Audio/Visual
• Ovations (Pleasanton, CA) - Food Service
• Dover, Kohl & Partners (Coral Gables, FL) – Design

The 8,000-9,000 seat stadium's initial design seems to take cues from nearby Union Plaza where old brick buildings have been recently renovated by local entrepreneurs. The City has expressed a desire to reflect El Paso's history in the stadium's look and feel.

View of the stadium seating areas and home plate.
The City approved a contract with Populous at its November 27, 2012 meeting for the firm to complete the design work and oversee construction of the ballpark. The City and MountainStar Sports Group hope to have construction completed by April of 2014.

Previously: Triple-A Club, Ballpark Debut New Website

City's Ballpark Page:

'Fountains' Progress Continues

Construction on the upcoming Fountains at Farah shopping center is progressing at a rapid pace as walls continue to go up around the development. Photographs at the center's website show a rapid increase in concrete from October to November of 2012.

The majority of work is currently focused on the big-box area of the project along the northwestern boundary. This is where larger retailers like Dick's Sporting Goods, Nordstrom Rack, and Best Buy will be located. Construction is also ongoing on the two-level parking structure. Concrete has now been poured for sections of the upper level of the garage. Portions of some big box retailers will actually be built above the parking area's first level.

The 1,800 foot shopping promenade will occupy the forward section of the center, and construction on this area will most likely begin when the garage is being completed. Storefronts will line the parking structure along the promenade.

The $70 million dollar project is scheduled for completion in fall of 2013. Centergy Retail hired EMJ Construction of Dallas to build the center.

Previously: 'Fountains' Website Adds New Aerial Photos