Tuesday, August 6, 2013

East Side Roundup

Cinemark, Hospital Projects Rule Landscape

With so much project news seemingly focused on the downtown and lower west side areas of El Paso, it’s easy to overlook development and transportation projects occurring in the most populated part of the city, the east side.

The east side has the largest population of any of El Paso’s areas, holding more than one third of the city’s residents. The zip codes generally thought of as covering the east side of the city, 79925, 79935, 79936, and 79938, have a combined 223,289 residents, according to the 2010 Census. In comparison, that is more than twice as large the population that Las Cruces had in 2010.

Here’s are some of the larger-scale projects the east side is currently experiencing.

Cinemark Theater

Construction is well underway on El Paso’s newest movie theater on the city’s east side. Cinemark USA is building a 14 screen theater at the corner of Montana Avenue and Rich Beem Boulevard about a mile east of Loop 375.
Front elevation of the future Cinemark theater in east El Paso. (www.elpasotexas.gov)

Southwest Land Development of El Paso is developing the 20 acre shopping center, which is part of the larger Hueco Club Estates development, a residential subdivision which is using smart growth principles in its design. This includes making the neighborhoods more walkable and incorporating alleys for rear garage access for homes.
Cinemark's far east El Paso theater will have 14 screens when it opens.

The theater, announced in September of 2012, will be the chain’s fifth in El Paso once it is completed, and the third on the east side. Tinseltown USA at the Las Palmas Marketplace and Cinemark Cielo Vista are also within the wide boundaries of the east side.

The chain also operates Cinemark West on Remcon Circle and the soon-to-come Cinemark Movie Bistro at Sunland Park Mall, a new concept theater that Cinemark is testing in El Paso which will serve “gourmet” movie food and alcoholic beverages.

A plan for a Carmike theater less than a mile from the far east side Cinemark was recently cancelled. The developer cited the delay in utility work as the reason for scrapping the Carmike project. Plans for both theaters were announced within days of each other last year for the under-served area. The nearest first-run theater is over eight miles away.
Multi-family units in the Hueco Club Estates neighborhood face a park. Garage access is through the back via an alleyway.

Carmike was to have been the first tenant in the El Cruzero SmartCode development planned for the northeast corner of Loop 375 and Montana Avenue. That 220 acre project was also cancelled earlier this year and the land was sold to River Oaks Properties of El Paso. No firm plans have been unveiled by River Oaks, but the developer told El Paso Inc. at the time of the announcement that it would develop 50 acres of the property as Town Center on the Loop. It remains to be seen if the project will materialize as a true town center or SmartCode development.

Sierra Providence East Expansion

Tenet Healthcare Corporation is working on its Tower Two expansion at the Sierra Providence East Medical Center, a $67 million project that will add a new four story tower to the hospital grounds at the corner of Joe Battle Boulevard and Edgemere Boulevard. According to a news release when the project was announced in September, 145,000 square feet of space will be added, providing room for 30 more surgical beds and 30 medical beds.
A new hospital tower is currently under construction at Sierra Providence East Medical Center, one of multiple development projects on El Paso’s east side. (Rendering: growingeast.com)

A 12-bed cardiovascular intensive care unit is being added, and the emergency department will expand from 21 to 31 beds. The cafeteria will be expanded, community education classrooms will be added, and administrative offices will be relocated, according to the release.

Ground was broken in January and construction is scheduled for completion by the end of 2014. The main hospital building opened in May 2008 and includes 110 beds.

Transportation Projects

East side drivers who have been staring at the Zaragoza Interchange take shape should be able to use the ramps in a few months. That’s if the project’s contractor, A.S. Horner of New Mexico, can make up for earlier delays caused by right-of-way acquisition issues.

Bridge spans now form a continuous line from Loop 375 to Zaragoza Road and vice versa, including the steel girders used for those longer distances between columns.

The $26 million project to construct the direct connectors will take drivers directly from Zaragoza Road southbound to Loop 375 southbound and from Loop 375 northbound to Zaragoza Road northbound.

The tentative completion date for the project is November 9, 2013 in just over three months.

Further south, commuters can expect detours and more construction as crews work on three new direct connectors at the Americas Interchange, the Interstate 10 and Loop 375 crossroads. The first three ramps at the interchange were opened to traffic earlier this year.

The $42.5 million project is scheduled for completion in October 2014, according to the contractor’s website, J.D. Abrams of Austin.
Rendering of the planting scheme along Montwood Boulevard, part of a drainage improvement project. (www.elpasotexas.gov)

Surface streets aren’t immune from construction, and one of the highest profile projects is the Montwood Drive undertaking to improve drainage in the area. It affects the thoroughfare from McRae Boulevard to Zanzibar Drive.

The $11 million project is scheduled for completion in January 2015. Ultimate Concrete, LLC, of El Paso is the contractor.