Friday, June 28, 2013

New Downtown Bank Now Open

United Bank Transforms Former Garage

United Bank of El Paso del Norte ( opened its flagship downtown branch this week after years of planning and construction that transformed a one-time parking structure into a new office building. The bank’s new location is its fourth but will become its headquarters, located at 401 E. Main.

Construction began last year on the three-level parking garage to mold it into a five-story hybrid parking/office building of Spanish colonial design. A bell tower now stands at the building’s southeast corner. 

The first floor of the new building houses the United Bank location. Office space on the upper levels will be available for lease.
The new bank seen from the corner of Kansas St. and Main in downtown El Paso.

The grand opening was held Wednesday, June 26, 2013. United Bank received funding from the Downtown Façade Program which is administered by the Downtown Management District.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

TI:ME at Montecillo Introduces Layout

A “non-traditional” retail and restaurant center slated for the corner of Mesa Street and Montecillo Drive has introduced its site plan in a new brochure. TI:ME at Montecillo is the newest addition to the Montecillo development in west El Paso and is driven by the creators/owners of Crave Kitchen and Bar and 1914 Lounge.
The TI:ME at Montecillo site plan shows planned restaurant and retail buildings. (

According to the brochure, a “cluster of seven unique buildings” will surround a “central gathering space,” a couple of which will house two restaurants and a coffee shop. A total of 12,000 square feet of leasable space makes up the center, with spaces ranging from 80 to 1,200 square feet. Rental rates begin at $200 a month.

The brochure promises a “lush and green” environment, with landscaping “like no other space in town.” It also highlights the use of re-conditioned shipping containers in some of the construction.
This rendering from the TI:ME brochure shows re-conditioned shipping containers incorporated into the center.

The creators of the center are targeting entrepreneurs and will offer free seminars on a monthly basis, hosted by business professionals, including lawyers, graphic designers, architects, and business consultants. There will also be meeting space made available to tenants, free WiFi, and “communal” advertising.

The trio behind the project, Octavio Gomez, Nick Salgado, and Rudy Valdes, have formed Pan Y Agua LLC, the new name for their restaurant and bar group. Construction began earlier this year on the project with walls going up within that last few weeks.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Brio Webpage Refreshed: City Updates Bus RTS Site

In just over one year’s time, El Pasoans will be using Sun Metro’s newest addition, the Brio Bus Rapid Transit System (RTS). And now the City has revamped Brio’s webpage ( with lots of new information and graphics regarding the “like rail” system that will go live in 2014.
This rendering from the Brio page at Sun Metro's website shows what the RTS unit will look like. (

New renderings of what the 62 foot articulated bus units will look like show the same bright blue, white, and green color scheme that Sun Metro adopted within the last few years. The buses have an extension in the back to allow room for more passengers, made distinct by the bendable midsection that looks like an accordion.

Other details include unique rearview mirrors and a front windshield that’s framed by a large swooping curve that creates a large smile on the bus’s façade. The units will have three boarding doors for passengers to use.

The interior of the buses will include 58 seats with additional standing room for 25 passengers. There will be two positions for wheelchairs and an inside rack with room for three bicycles. WiFi is also incorporated into each unit.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Montecillo Unveils Town Center Site Plan

Project Includes 99 Residential Units

The developer of the Montecillo SmartCode project on El Paso’s west side is preparing to break ground on the future Town Center area of the development. Now, a site plan has appeared on Montecillo’s website ( as part of a brochure highlighting the Town Center.

Montecillo's Town Center site plan shows several blocks with retail, office, and residential uses. (

Eight “blocks” make up the Town Center, which largely resembles the layout shown in a concept video that was released last year. Montecillo Drive winds through the area, taking a curving northeasterly route that will eventually lead up to a housing area to the east.

The first block in the lifestyle center will contain the 910-seat Alamo Drafthouse movie theater that was announced earlier this year. It is located in the easternmost part of the Town Center, along with a 12,000 square foot, two level office building. It includes the largest parking area on the site, a 444 space lot that will be placed behind the two buildings.

Block number two is situated on the northwestern corner of the center. The main east-west street will run in front of two dynamically-shaped buildings in this block. The larger, embedded building will have 13,000 square feet of retail and 56 residential units on 2.5 levels, according to the brochure. The smaller building, part of which faces Mesa Street, will have 5,000 square feet of retail and 24,000 square feet of office space. Two parking lots and some street parking will contribute 191 spaces in this block.

The Town Center is just a small part of the larger 292 acre Montecillo SmartCode development. (

The third block is surrounded by streets on all sides, including Mesa Street. It contains 24,000 square feet of retail distributed among two buildings with a pedestrian passageway that splits them. The buildings look to have nearly zero-setbacks with on-street parking contributing 75 spaces.

Weekly Edition, Issue 12

The Weekly Edition, Issue 12, has arrived! Take a look at the newest issue of our Weekly Edition, by clicking HERE.

In this edition:
  • Montecillo Unveils Town Center Site Plan
  • Brio Webpage Refreshed: City Updates Bus RTS Site
  • New Downtown Bank Opens this Week
  • TI:ME at Montecillo Introduces Layout

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Retail Buzz: New 'Fountains' Tenants Teased

Contractor Websites Reveal More Stores

Websites for general contractors are revealing possible unannounced stores for the Fountains at Farah shopping center ( currently under construction on El Paso’s east side. The retailers have not been announced or confirmed and are subject to change.

W.B. Kilber Construction Co. of Dallas ( lists “Interior Finishout” as its role in the center’s construction, working on future locations for Pier 1 Imports, Best Buy, and TJ Maxx/Homegoods. Best Buy signed a lease for its Fountains store last year, but Pier 1 Imports and TJ Maxx/Homegoods ( have only been rumored.
Scheiner Commercial Group, Inc., of Colorado ( lists several projects on its site related to work at the Fountains at Farah. The firm lists “shell modification” work for stores including Destination XL (, Vitamin Shoppe, Starbucks, Nordstrom Rack, USAA, Verizon, and AT&T. AT&T recently began posting employment opportunities online for the Fountains location.

Other Fountains stores listed at Scheiner’s site include PetSmart, Rack Room Shoes, and Stein Mart.

The Fountains at Farah is on track for an October grand opening. Retailer announcements have been limited but should increase over the next few months.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

New Central El Paso Walmart Hinges on Council Vote (Updated)

City to Hear Appeal this Week

Update: City Council voted 5-3 to postpone the item for two weeks. The City will have a new Mayor and two or three new council members at that meeting.

Original Story:
City Council officials will vote this week whether or not to approve a Walmart Neighborhood Market location in central El Paso. The rezoning application is an appeal by the retailer after last month’s denial by the City Plan Commission (CPC).

Walmart is hoping to build a 35,500 square foot store at the corner of Chelsea Street and Montana Avenue. Several residential homes on Cardon Street face the properties that could hold the grocery store on the site’s western edge. A large empty lot, an animal clinic, a single family home, and a Chico’s Tacos location currently make up the plot of land on which the Walmart would sit. Trowbridge Drive runs behind the site.
Several people have written letters and made phone calls both in favor of and against the rezoning application. Officials will also be presented with two petitions at the City Council meeting signed by area residents, one supporting the development, and one against it.

Walmart first sought the rezoning application at the CPC’s April 18, 2013 meeting. Commissioners postponed a vote on the rezoning application for a total of four weeks so that Walmart could make changes to the site plan. Officials sited traffic concerns and building a high density store on such a narrow lot adjacent to single family homes as issues.

The retailer changed its rezoning request from Planned Commercial District to General Mixed Use which would allow additional buildings to be constructed in the future along Montana Avenue. No changes were made, however, to the store’s location on the lot nor to the parking lot entrance on Montana Avenue, both details that City planners hoped would be changed. Still the changes were enough to receive a stamp of approval from the Planning Division, which makes recommendations to the CPC and City Council. The CPC voted to deny the application at its May 16, 2013 meeting, paving the way for an appeal to City Council.

The appeal will be heard at the June 18, 2013 City Council meeting. If approved, Walmart officials hope to have the store completed by the end of 2014, according to the Master Zoning Plan Report prepared by Dunaway Associates of Fort Worth.

Monday, June 17, 2013

City Council to Vote on Project to Revive Vacant Downtown Hotel (Updated)

Former Artisan Building Has Potential Buyer

Update: City Council approved the incentives package. The developer, Summit 11 Investment Group, will now have 90 days to purchase the building from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Original Story: 
A downtown hotel with a troubled past may get another shot if City Council approves an incentives package for an interested buyer. The former Artisan Hotel, which was open for five months before closing amid the owner’s bankruptcy, has been largely vacant for the past ten years. Now, an investment group would like to purchase the building and turn it into a 115-room brand name hotel.

The former Artisan Hotel sits vacant in
downtown El Paso. (
Summit 11 Investment Group, LLC, will spend at least $8 million to completely gut the interior of the hotel and reconstruct brand new hotel rooms within the structure. The 60,000 square foot hotel will include over 100 rooms, meeting and banquet space, an on-site restaurant and bar, a renovated pool, and a rooftop spa and fitness facility. The group will also renovate the exterior to have a modern, “avant garde design.”

The City’s Chapter 380 agreement incentives include a ten year property tax rebate on the City’s portion, a ten year ground floor sales tax rebate on the City’s portion for retailers, a ten year alcohol tax rebate, and a parking and room block commitment from the City.

As part of the agreement, the hotel will have to carry a brand name from the Marriott, Starwood, Hilton, or IHG chain of hotels. IHG hotel choices are limited to Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, or Hotel Indigo.

Summit 11 will have 90 days to purchase the building if the agreement is approved and six months to begin construction. The hotel must be open for business within 24 months, or approximately in June of 2015. Summit currently operates two hotels in El Paso, the Holiday Inn El Paso Airport and the Comfort Inn & Suites Airport, according to the City’s agenda item.

The vacant downtown hotel building, located at 325 N. Kansas, is less than two blocks from the new City Hall. City Council will vote on the incentives agreement at its June 18, 2013 meeting.

Downtown Mixed Use: Martin Building Project to Merge Historic with Brand New (Updated)

Update: The incentives package for the Martin Building project was approved by City Council. Under the agreement, the project must begin construction within six months.

Original Story:
Five stories of renovated space in the historic Martin Building will bring a multitude of additional apartment units to downtown El Paso’s core, and a current parking lot will become a brand new retail and office building right next door. That’s if City Council approves an incentives package at Tuesday’s meeting for developer Lane Gaddy and his group of investors.
The historic Martin Building (left) in downtown El Paso will get an Annex (center) in the developer’s plan to create a mixed-use project. A third building nearby will add additional retail and restaurant space and has already been approved for renovation. These concept images do not represent the buildings’ final design. (Courtesy Lane Gaddy)

The entire Martin Building, located at the corner of Mills Avenue and Stanton Street, will be renovated to include two levels of retail and office space on the first and second floor and housing on the third through seventh floors. Residential units will consist mostly of one bedroom apartments, a decision based on the expected downtown renter.

“We do see them being smaller, one bedroom units. That seems to be the appetite downtown right now,” Gaddy explains, including that demand is expected to be high for the future apartment units which would be just one block away from San Jacinto Plaza. Rental rates have not yet been determined.
Next door to the Martin Building, a brand new, two level building is planned that will offer retail space on the first floor. The second floor will be used as flex space that can be developed as needed. Conceptual plans indicate that the second level may include a balcony that overlooks Mills Avenue.

This 11,000 square foot “Annex” will also contain a community space on its roof that will connect to the third level of the Martin Building so that residents may use the area recreationally. Gaddy isn’t yet sure if green (flora) type elements will be included to create a rooftop garden of sorts.
A rooftop community area in the Annex will be available for residents of the Martin Building. In this concept image, the area includes trees in planters, a water feature, a pergola, and seating areas. (Courtesy Lane Gaddy)

Conceptual images of the new building are purely for illustrative purposes. The final design will be developed once an architect has been hired, pending approval of the City’s incentives.

The City’s Chapter 380 incentives package is for development of both the Martin Building and the new Annex. It consists of a property tax rebate for ten years and a rebate of the City’s portion of sales tax for ten years for ground floor retailers. The City will also provide the developer with an annual “Historic Renovation Subsidy” grant for ten years.

In return for the incentives, the developer must begin construction on the project within six months and be ready for occupancy within 24 months. This means the retail, office, and apartment units would be ready for lease by summer of 2015.

The Gaddy group of investors must also spend a minimum of $6.682 million on both buildings and obtain an 80% occupancy rate within two years of opening.

City Council will vote on the incentives package at its June 18, 2013 meeting. Gaddy has expressed that the project is contingent on approval of the Chapter 380 agreement.

Tejas Building

Just across the mid-block alley from the brand new Annex sits the former Tejas Café building, another renovation project being tackled by Lane Gaddy. The Historic Landmark Commission voted 5-3 last week to allow demolition of the building’s façade.
The Tejas building has been approved for demolition of the facade, paving the way for renovations.

Though considered separate from the Martin Building mixed use project, this building is nearly adjacent and will continue the mixed-used plan with ground floor retail/restaurant tenants and additional space on the second level.

Gaddy expects construction to last about four months and will begin as soon as permits are acquired.

“Interest has been high and we are waiting to sign tenants until we have the construction permits,” he adds. The building is currently empty.

Conceptual images from the Martin Building project show that a “skywalk” could potentially connect the second level of the new Annex with this building.

Weekly Edition, Issue 11

The Weekly Edition, Issue 11, has arrived! Take a look at the newest issue of our Weekly Edition, by clicking HERE.

In this edition:
  • Downtown Mixed Use: Martin Building Project to Merge Historic with Brand New
  • City Council to Vote on Project to Revive Vacant Downtown Hotel
  • Retail Buzz: New 'Fountains' Tenants Teased
  • New Central El Paso Walmart Hinges on Council Vote

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Schuster Roundabout to Open August 25th

The roundabout that is part of the Schuster Avenue realignment and overpass at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) is scheduled to open August 25, 2013. That’s according to the most recent UTEP Headlines Newscast (

The new roundabout will control traffic travelling along Schuster Avenue and eventually connect to the future overpass at Interstate 10. Schuster will travel westward over the freeway and connect with Paisano Drive. It will eventually have an interchange with the Border Highway West extension when it is constructed in the coming years.
This diagram shows a concept of the decorative plan for the pedestrian walkway under the roundabout. (TXDOT)

Pedestrians will have an underpass walkway available which will connect UTEP’s southern parking lots to the main campus. The walkway will travel directly underneath the roundabout. Decorative elements will mirror the school’s Bhutanese architectural style.

TXDOT officials hope to have the entire Spur 1966 project completed by fall of 2014.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

City Breaks Ground on NE Regional Skate Park

Project is the First to Use 2012 Quality of Life Funds
Rendering of the future skate park. (

City Engineering workers prepare
for today's groundbreaking.
The City of El Paso broke ground today on the future Skate Park at the Northeast Regional Park, the first project to receive funding from the 2012 Quality of Life Bonds and start construction. Voters approved $245 million for parks, recreation, open space and zoo improvements.

The skate park will be located immediately to the north of the baseball diamonds in the Northeast Regional Park. According to the site plan, the park will have three to four distinguishable skating areas, including dynamic bowls, swimming-pool style areas, a curving half-pipe, and an area filled with stairs and railings. Officials hope to have the skate park completed by January 2014.
The site plan shows the park layout and parking areas.

The $1.436 million contract has been awarded to Medlock Commercial Contractors, LLC, of El Paso. The contract includes construction of two parking areas that will serve the skate park. Medlock has previously worked on Bulldog Championship Park in Socorro and the Vinton Municipal Park, according to its website (

Country Club Road Construction to Last 560 Days, Include Roundabout

Detours May Divert Traffic Miles to the North and South

The project to revitalize Country Club Road in El Paso’s Upper Valley will last 560 days and use eight phases to complete, according to a presentation given at a recent community meeting. The two mile project will reconstruct Country Club Road from Doniphan Drive to River Run Street. 
Eight-foot sidewalks will be constructed for pedestrian access.

Construction crews will create a three lane road, one lane in each direction and a center lane for left turns. A five foot “landscaped parkway” will line each side of the roadway and an eight foot sidewalk will be provided for pedestrians. A new lighting scheme will also be added for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

A roundabout is planned for Country Club Road’s intersection with Memory Lane. The 94-foot roundabout will include landscaping and medians to protect pedestrians crossing through the area. The medians will serve as “islands” that protect pedestrians from moving vehicles.
The planned roundabout at Country Club Road and Memory Lane will be 94 feet in diameter. Medians will protect pedestrians from traffic. (

The City is also considering adding another roundabout at the thoroughfare’s intersection with Montoya Road, but funding has not been found for this additional project.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ring Around the City (Update)

Loop 375 Stacked with Projects

Note: This story was originally published on October 1, 2012. It is being republished with revisions based on project updates.

Years of planning to expand Loop 375 and an infusion of state and regional funding have resulted in several freeway projects occurring all at once around the city with more soon on the way. The Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA) in conjunction with the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) and local officials, has helped many of these projects find funding.
City and transportation officials have coordinated more than $1 billion in projects in the area, but the biggest focus has been on transforming the 375 into a true loop by adding more lanes, constructing main lanes where there are currently only gateways, and expanding the loop westward from its current terminus south of downtown. Officials hope this will alleviate traffic on Interstate 10 as commuters opt for other freeways.

Here is a recap of the ongoing and planned projects along the city's Loop.

Monday, June 10, 2013

See New Rendering of UTEP's Future Residential Buildings

The University of Texas at El Paso has released a 3-D rendering of its two future residential halls that will be constructed just north of the Helen of Troy Softball Complex. The image has been posted at the school's UTEP on the Move website (
The project will bring 83 new student housing units to UTEP.

Construction on the $23 million project is scheduled to begin this week and be completed in fall of 2014.

Read more in our previous story on the complex:
UTEP Gets More Housing

Weekly Edition, Issue 10

The Weekly Edition, Issue 10, has arrived! Take a look at the newest issue of our Weekly Edition, by clicking HERE.

In this edition:
  • Ring Around the City: Loop 375 Stacked with Projects (Update)
  • Schuster Roundabout to Open this Fall
  • Country Club Road Construction to Last 560 Days
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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Deadline Extension Approved for ‘Aldea’

Developer Granted Additional Twelve Months to Begin Construction

Geltmore, LLC, the developer of the future Aldea El Paso project (, has been granted an extension of its agreement with the City to construct a SmartCode community on the city’s west side. The 200+ acre property is located between Interstate 10 and Mesa Street just north of Executive Center Boulevard 
Rendering of the Aldea Rambla town center area. (

Construction was required to begin on the project by May 17, 2013, but has been delayed. Geltmore will now get 12 additional months to break ground with construction starting by May of 2014. 

According to the City Council agenda item seeking the extension, the Texas Department of Transportation has not yet approved a pass-through financing project to construct a frontage road between I-10 and the Aldea development. This is one of the original five conditions on which construction is dependent. 

Magoffin Pocket Park Project Moves Forward

Project Financed By Bond Election Funding

The City has awarded the contract to construct the Magoffin Pocket Park project which will bring a new park to the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Octavia Street. The 0.10 acre property is currently vacant.
Artist's rendering of the future Magoffin Pocket Park.

Amenities and design of the park are based on the Magoffin Historic District Design Guidelines and include a gazebo, a shade structure, benches, and trash receptacles. Other features include playground equipment, accent lighting, and colored concrete that is integrated into the surrounding sidewalk.
The gazebo will be designed to historic standards.

The 4,375 square foot pocket park at 1030 Myrtle Avenue will have a playground area enclosed by a wrought iron fence set into a two foot stone wall. New sod, trees, and shrubs will be installed.

The project has a budget amount of $300,000 and will be financed by the 2012 Quality of Life Bonds approved by voters last year. The contract was awarded by City Council to Setcon, LLC, of El Paso.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sun Metro Updates Present, Future Projects

Brio Bus Renderings, New Facility Are System Highlights

Updates recently provided to the City’s Mass Transit Board help give insight into Sun Metro’s current and future projects. The City department is working on four Bus Rapid Transit System (RTS) lines as well as getting ready to move into a new administrative and maintenance facility.
Rendering of a Brio articulated bus. (Renderings:

The long-planned Brio RTS lines will begin with the Mesa Corridor which will open next year. The Alameda Corridor will follow later in 2014, with the Dyer and Montana Corridors coming in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Renderings of a Brio articulated bus and station show a colorful motif using streaks of lime green and bright blue. 

The Brio stations will have clock displays showing expected bus arrivals in real-time and will also have pre-board ticketing machines. The four Brio routes will have a total cost of $140 million, nearly half of which will come from federal funding.

Sun Metro’s brand new Operations & Maintenance Facility is progressing on the city’s east side. The $38 million facility is currently under construction at 10151 Montana Avenue, west of Global Reach Drive. Sun Metro will move to the 34 acre center from its current location adjacent to the Union Depot station in downtown El Paso.
Nighttime view of Sun Metro's future Operations building on Montana Avenue.

Other coming projects include development of the streetcar project ($95 million) and the addition of two new transfer centers ($10 million). Three Transit Oriented Developments are in progress, at the Northgate Transfer Center, at the Far East Transfer Center, and at the Five Points Terminal.

In 2012, Sun Metro carried over 17,000,000 passengers on 166 buses. It has over 600 employees and operates on an annual budget of $61.1 million.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

City Introduces Wayfinding Plan

Project Will Install Signs, Kiosks in Downtown EP

The El Paso City Council will take action on an item this week that would adopt the Downtown Pedestrian Wayfinding Plan, developed in coordination with the Downtown Management District (DMD). This is the first part of the larger City Wayfinding Program adopted into the City Charter last year. 
Various signs and kiosks will be placed around downtown El Paso.

The project is designed to help pedestrians and/or vehicular traffic orient themselves within the city and find their way to and from landmarks. Downtown is the first part of the city that will receive wayfinding components.

Elements/structures included in the downtown version include various types of signs and kiosks. Signs will help direct visitors to nearby points of interest and may be placed on existing and future lampposts as well as decorative poles and posts. 
Wayfinding kiosks will be placed strategically along pedestrian routes.

Signs may vary in size, the larger of which may include maps of downtown. Some signs and posts may include “pageantry,” illustrated using the papel picado motif introduced to downtown by the DMD.

The larger pedestrian kiosks will include signs on four sides which may highlights coming events or include a downtown map. Asymmetrical shades will protect pedestrians from the elements while they are using the kiosks. A smaller kiosk will contain no shade structure.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Weekly Edition, Issue 9

The Weekly Edition, Issue 9, has arrived! Take a look at the newest issue of our Weekly Edition, by clicking HERE.

In this edition:
  • Sun Metro Updates Present, Future Projects
  • City Introduces Wayfinding Plan: Project Will Install Signs, Kiosks in Downtown El Paso
  • Deadline Extension Requested for 'Aldea': Developer Seeks Additional 12 Months to Begin Construction
  • Magoffin Pocket Park Project Moves Forward: Project Financed by Bond Election Funding
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