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: http://wwwdotwintonriovalleydotcom.wordpress.com/