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.