Sunday, March 31, 2013

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

SmartCode Sought for Ysleta/Mission Valley

The City of El Paso is looking to rezone a historic area of El Paso's Mission Valley to SmartCode and will consider the item at an upcoming City Council meeting. The target area is centered around the Nestor Valencia Transit Center at the intersection of Alameda Avenue and Zaragoza Road and stretches roughly 3,000 feet in each direction.
The Illustrative Plan in the rezoning application makes multiple suggestions for improving land use in the area. This includes creating more density towards the center of the neighborhood, nearest the Transit Center. It also suggests that this transfer center could be leveraged to increase access to the nearby Ysleta Mission, part of the Mission Trail.
Concept of view of Zaragoza Road across from the existing Transit Center.
Green spaces and pedestrian connections can also be created by using large, undeveloped areas at the center of many of the blocks. These green spaces can also be used as frontage for new residential units. Also, the plan suggests lining large parking lots in front of retail buildings with commercial or residential uses to enhance the pedestrian environment.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

El Paso Zoo Master Plan: New Species, Exhibits, & Amenities

Site plan showing planned improvements to the El Paso Zoo. (City of El Paso)

The El Paso City Council will review the newest master plan for the El Paso Zoo at its March 26, 2013, meeting which includes dozens of upgrades to the park on Paisano Drive. The improvements will be spread out over the next 15 years and will use various funding sources, including the bonds approved by voters in last November's election.


The Zoo's African area will include new exhibits as well as upgrades to existing facilities. A new Red River Hog exhibit will be located on the southern edge of the area, while an African Wild Dog exhibit will be on the northeastern edge.
The future River Hog exhibit coming to the El Paso Zoo. (City of El Paso)

A Crop Garden Exhibit area could house African Crested Porcupine and Radiated Tortoise. It will be located adjacent to the current Meerkat Yard. The exhibits are scheduled for completion in 2015.

Chihuahuan Desert

The northern half of the current Americas area will be completely replaced by a new Chihuahuan Desert Experience which will highlight the largely unseen wildlife of the El Paso region. A Ranch House will contain an array of insects and small animals while offering a view into the new Mexican Gray Wolf exhibit.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Downtown Stadium Public Artists Chosen: Two Local and One National

The City of El Paso's Public Art Program has chosen three artists for the upcoming downtown stadium project, two individuals from the El Paso area and one national team from California. The artists will design, fabricate, and install their creations at the Triple-A ballpark that will be built where the current City Hall sits.

Gaspar Enriquez illustration created for the Rudolfo Anaya book
Elegy on the Death of Cesar Chavez.
The first local artist is Gaspar Enriquez, a native El Pasoan who was raised in the Segundo Barrio. Enriquez received degrees from both UTEP and NMSU, and devoted 34 years to teaching art to Bowie High School students in El Paso. Several of his works have been purchased by multiple art museums and galleries in the United States. Currently, Enriquez is rehabilitating a centuries-old adobe building in San Elizario.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Montecillo Leasing Package Reveals Additional Retail Plans

A newly available Leasing Package at the Montecillo SmartCode development website shows a westward expansion of retail opportunities.

Three buildings near the future intersection of Montecillo Drive and Castellano Drive are highlighted in the Leasing Package in addition to the original retail space available at the development's Venue apartment complex. The space will be available on multiple levels. A set of building elevations are included in the Package, but it is unclear which building is referenced.

Elevations for undisclosed building included in the Leasing Package.
According to the Leasing Package, the Santi Apartments at Montecillo will begin construction this year and offer an additional 15,000 square feet of retail space. It will include 263 units.

Details on Alamo Drafthouse Montecillo Location
Montecillo Introduces its 'Entertainment District'

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Is the 'El Cruzero' SmartCode Project Cancelled?

Cesar Viramontes, the landowner behind the El Cruzero SmartCode project on El Paso's far east side, has cancelled the development and will soon sell the 220+ acres of land to River Oaks Properties. That's according to an article at the El Paso Inc. website.

Viramontes first unveiled plans for the ambitious project two years ago and received incentives from both the City and County governments to help construction begin. The initial plans for El Cruzero showed a mixed use development with a town center "main street" near Montana Avenue. Though the project never broke ground, news was made in September of 2012 when Carmike Cinemas announced that a location was planned for the site. Anthony Properties of Dallas then purchased the theater site on Montana Avenue from Viramontes.

Now, according to the El Paso Inc. article, River Oaks will develop 50 acres of the property as Town Center on the Loop, a power center that will include big box retailers with surrounding homes. River Oaks will not disclose whether it will follow in Viramontes' footsteps and use SmartCode planning, but the developer has approached the City for possible incentives. This move usually indicates that a development will be different from the usual layout seen in shopping centers throughout the city.

Read the El Paso Inc. article:

Carmike First 'El Cruzero' Tenant?
El Cruzero Reveals Progress, Gets Extension
El Cruzero to Transform Far East El Paso Desert

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spur 1966 Project Design to Include UTEP Architectural Style, El Paso Themes

The project to extend Schuster Avenue over Interstate 10 near the University of Texas at El Paso will include aesthetic elements that reflect the school's architecture as well as themes familiar to residents. The extension, called Spur 1966 in homage to the national champion UTEP basketball team, then called Texas Western College, will realign Schuster and connect it to Paisano Drive to the west.

Future Schuster Ave/Paisano Drive intersection, looking east.
Two different sections of the project will include clear aesthetic elements. The first, the pedestrian walkway underneath a proposed roundabout, will have color and architectural elements reflective of the University itself. Bhutanese style columns and embellishments will surround passersby as they travel to and from the adjacent parking lots.

Planned aesthetic improvements to pedestrian underpass at the roundabout.
The second section that will include aesthetic upgrades will be a segment of Paisano Drive north of the future Schuster intersection, at the point where the road transitions from surface level to bridge. A mural of sorts will decorate the concrete wall that supports the road above for several feet. Themes in the concept image include cowboys, mountains, yucca plants, the Rio Grande River, and missions.

Proposed decorative elements along a concrete wall on Paisano Drive.
Construction on the Spur 1966 project could start in spring of 2013 and be completed by fall of 2014. The Texas Department of Transportation hopes to have the environmental assessment ready by summer's end.

Schuster Extension May Include Pedestrian Underpass, Roundabout
UTEP Plan Shows Schuster Realignment

Spur 1966 Design Summary (PDF):
TxDOT Project Page:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Details on Alamo Drafthouse Montecillo Location

Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, the Austin-based movie theater chain, has announced a new El Paso location via a news release on the company's website. The new theater will be located at the Montecillo SmartCode development on El Paso's west side.

The new theater building will include nine screens, each equipped with 100 percent digital projection. Alamo theater auditoriums also eliminate the neck-straining front row to ensure a high quality view from each seat. The theater combines a movie cinema and restaurant experience; audience members can discretely order food and drinks from roaming servers who stealthily move about the rows. Long, narrow tables sit in front of each row of seats.

Narrow tables sit in front of moviegoers.
Alamo Drafthouse also has a strict No Texting/No Talking policy wherein a patron will receive one warning before being asked to leave with no refund. Children under six are also not permitted along with unaccompanied minors.

Concept of Montecillo's Entertainment District. The Alamo Drafthouse
could be housed in this "town center" section.
The press release indicates the theater building will be located with the Montecillo Town Center area. This could be the previously teased Montecillo Entertainment District, on the eastern side of Mesa Street. If so, this would make Alamo Drafthouse the first announced tenant for the district.

Alamo Drafthouse's Vintage Park location
in Houston.
No timeline has been provided for the project, which will be developed in partnership with Triple Tap Ventures, LLC, of Houston. Triple Tap owns and operates Houston area Alamo Drafthouse locations.

Related: Montecillo Introduces its 'Entertainment District'

News Release:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

'Rio Valley' Bringing Small Village Feel to Upper Valley

A new neighborhood coming to El Paso's Upper Valley will bring a new concept to the city's suburban areas. Rio Valley, a new 62 acre residential development at the corner of Westside Drive and Borderland Road, will include neighborhood design elements such as a street grid, alleys, and a mixed-use "Main Street."

Bird's eye view of the planned Rio Valley neighborhood.
The Winton Homes Group is developing the site which could include up to 351 residential units, including single-family homes and some multi-family buildings with two, three, or four units each. The design of the duplex, triplex, and quadruplex buildlings will trend toward a "big house" feel and not the suburban style that is currently found throughout the city.

Example of multi-family "big house" building.
Rio Valley will also include agricultural elements as a nod to surrounding farm uses. Orchard ponds will capture stormwater as a regular pond would, but these will contain trees that create an orchard within the development. Scott Winton of the Winton Homes Group says that pomegranate trees are the likely candidates to fill the orchards, adding, "The homeowners association will get the revenue of the crop and hopefully one day Rio Valley will be the home of a Pomegranate Festival." The same association will be responsible for maintaining street trees around the entire neighborhood, which is important in promoting a walkable environment by shading pedestrians from the sun.

Other green spaces include a 2.54 acre park will be generally situated in the middle of the development, with a gazebo serving as a terminating vista for the Main Street. Additionally, pocket parks and linear parks will create pathways and greenbelts in the northern and southern sections of the neighborhood. Streets in the development will be variations of the word "hope" in different languages.

The Main Street buildings will have zero setbacks, meaning that the building facades will line the sidewalks along each side of the street. The storefronts could include businesses such as restaurants, salons, taverns, and dry cleaners, and could also include small business offices. These buildings will all have common walls, and a mix of architectural styles could help to create an eclectic appearance.

Rio Valley "Main Street."
Plans for the development looked much different when originally imagined. Years ago, the City had approved the neighborhood with 188 large lots, according to Winton. As the City's focus changed to Smart Growth, Winton saw an opportunity to transform the plan for this project into one that included mixed uses and higher densities. He includes, "I became a proponent of the New Urbanism about 15 years ago, so it wasn't a matter of me being convinced to try a development like this. It seemed the timing was right."

Currently, the project is in the utility phase, and lots for home building could be available for construction as soon as August 2013. Winton Homes will use its Accent Homes and Winton/Flair Homes divisions to build on some of the parcels and make some lots available to other builders.

Rio Valley website:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

'Fountains' Progress Photos Updated

The latest update to the Fountains at Farah power center's website includes new aerial progress photos. The newest pictures show progress made over three months including one taken just one month ago.

February 2013
Significant progress can be seen in the most recent photograph from February. Most of the buildings on the upper portion of the center have their walls up, and the second level of the parking structure is mostly complete. And walls have now gone up on some of the buildings closest to Gateway West Boulevard, along the future promenade area.

January 2013
On the eastern side of the development, the big box structures are mostly complete on the exterior, and the parking lot seems mostly finished in this area. Awaiting foundations line the front of this section and may house new restaurants.

December 2012
The power center with a lifestyle promenade should open in October 2013, just in time for the holiday shopping season. Few tenants have been announced, but confirmed retailers include Dick's Sporting Goods, Best Buy, and Nordstrom Rack.

Fountains at Farah Project 'Going at Full Tilt'
'Fountains' Progress Continues

Fountains at Farah website:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

See Newest Downtown Ballpark Designs

The El Paso City Council received a presentation at its March 5, 2013, meeting showing the latest design concepts for the upcoming Downtown baseball stadium. Populous Inc., the firm in charge of the design, revealed various perspectives of the park in its presentation.

Concourse level views within the stadium.
The overall layout of the park has remained consistent since earlier drafts were revealed months ago. Home plate will sit in the southwestern corner of the plot while the outfield will run along Missouri Avenue and Santa Fe Street.
Though still in the concept stage, the architecture of the stadium will be reflective of nearby Union Plaza, particularly the Union Depot train station to the west. The red brick facade is clear in the design, especially in the image showing the view from Durango Street on the stadium's west side.

The western entrance and team store on Durango Street.
The view from behind home plate is clearly a highlight in another image, showing panoramic views of Downtown El Paso and the Franklin Mountains to the northeast.

View from behind home plate.
The eastern entrance to the park is situated beneath two grandstand towers that may house a team store, party decks, and a rooftop patio. It will be located where Franklin Avenue ends at Santa Fe Street.

The eastern entrance along Santa Fe Street.
Other proposed amenities for the park include a 360 degree concourse, a play area for children, and a grassy seating area in homerun territory. A pedestrian ramp and an extended concourse may span the depressed train tracks on the southern edge of the property.

Current plans have the demolition of City Hall, the future site of the ballpark, set for early April.

Ballpark Concept Videos Added to City's Website

City Council presentation (PDF):

Sunday, March 3, 2013

City Subdividing Vacant Parcel Near Airway/Montana Intersection

A long vacant plot of land near the airport will soon be subdivided by the City in a move that could spur future development, this after recently changing the zoning of the property to SmartCode. A Resubdivision Combination application will be reviewed at the March 7, 2013, City Plan Commission (CPC) meeting.

The 9.3 acre parcel will be subdivided into nine plots in what the application calls a "mixed-use development." Located at the southwest corner of Airway Boulevard and Boeing Drive, building plans will have to be approved prior to permits being issued due to the SmartCode designation.

Two "private" streets will allow access to most of the lots within the property. High Street will travel south into the development from Boeing Drive, and West Street will provide access from Airway Boulevard. In the Southern Industrial Park Master Plan approved by the City last year, High Street will be a meandering avenue traveling north and south through an envisioned shopping, restaurant, and entertainment district. Currently, industrial uses dominate the area.

Concepts for the property found in the Southern Industrial Park Master Plan.
No definite plans have been revealed for the property, and the City may simply be subdividing the large plot to make it more enticing to developers.

Smart Code, Master Plan Coming to Airport Land

CPC Agenda:

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Asarco Demolition Progressing Quickly; Stacks Come Down April 13

Aerial photos released by the Asarco property trustee show that significant progress has been made in the process of demolishing the property near UTEP. Slides presented at a February 26, 2013 community meeting by Project Navigator, Ltd., show that the majority of structures are gone and slag has been largely removed from an arroyo on the site.

The trustee has also announced that the two looming Asarco stacks will be knocked down on April 13, 2013, after sunrise. Both the 828' and 612' chimney columns will come down at the same time in an event involving pushing the stacks onto their sides like falling trees. Explosives will create a hole on one side of the base of each stack, like an ax creating a hole on one side of a tree, helping direct the columns into planned fall zones. Earthen berms and elevated mist systems will help reduce the spread of potentially harmful dust.

Interstate 10, which runs along the eastern edge of the primary site, will be closed 15 minutes before the blast and tentatively reopen as soon as 15 minutes afterward. Paisano Drive on the western edge will be closed to traffic three hours prior to demolition and could reopen one hour after the stacks fall. There will be no public viewing areas for the event, but local broadcasters are expected to carry it live on television.

The smokestack fall zones are surrounded by berms, highlighted in green.
Another important element to remediation of the site is the rehabilitation of the Parker Brothers Arroyo. The culvert directs much water underground as well as bringing water to the Rio Grande River from higher ground to the east. The project is minimizing groundwater absorption and replacing contaminated slag with soil.

Parker Brothers Arroyo.
All remediation projects on the Asarco site should be completed by 2015 at which time the property can be put up for bid. The Project Navigator team on the Asarco project is headed by Site Custodial Trustee Roberto Puga.

Asarco Smokestack Demolition Plan Moves Forward

Asarco Project website: