Thursday, August 29, 2013

Updated: Unnamed 'Economic Development' Projects on City Council Agenda


Former Mayor John Cook had planned to speak to City Council on Tuesday to lobby for a new downtown hotel. That's according to an El Paso Time's story concerning Cook's attempt to register as a lobbyist.

Cook appeared at City Council on behalf of Jim Scherr, the El Paso businessman who turned the abandoned International Hotel building into the gleaming DoubleTree Hotel in Downtown a few years back. The story indicates that Cook was trying to lobby City support for a "new" hotel for Downtown but was denied the opportunity due to a City ordinance preventing elected officials from becoming lobbyists within 24 months of leaving office.

Also, after the City Council meeting, City Manager Joyce Wilson and City Rep. Carl Robinson indicated that multiple proposals have been made for the future use of the Cohen Stadium property. Wilson briefed City Representatives in executive session behind closed doors. City officials will weight their options and decide which direction to take for the property. No details on the proposals were released to the public.

Original Story:

Items to be Discussed in Executive Session 

El Paso’s City Council will discuss four items at this week’s meeting labeled as “Economic Development” projects, all in Executive Session. Three of the projects are located in Northeast El Paso and one is set for downtown. The projects have not been made public and will be discussed behind closed doors. 
Officials could weigh their options for the future of the Cohen Stadium site at the next City Council meeting.  A water park and a soccer stadium/complex are two of the rumored possibilities for the 50 acre site.

Two of the items are related to building an “entertainment facility” in the Northeast part of town and could be in relation to the City-owned Cohen Stadium and the 50 acre site on which it sits. The El Paso Diablos baseball team played its final game ever at the stadium this past weekend and no concrete plans exist for the use of the facility in the future. 

There has been speculation in the past several months concerning Cohen Stadium’s future, with some mention of possibly building a water park on the land. City officials previously mentioned interest from an outside company in constructing a water park, though no formal plans were announced. Others have mentioned transforming Cohen into a soccer stadium using 2012 Quality of Life bonds. 

The stadium opened in 1990 with a seating capacity of nearly 10,000 as the home of the El Paso Diablos Double-A baseball team. The team was sold in 2004 and moved to Springfield, Missouri. A new Diablos team formed in 2005, becoming part of an independent league and continuing to use the stadium up to this year. Earlier this year, the stadium was deemed unfit for a Triple-A club coming to El Paso in 2014, leaving officials with the task of determining the site’s future. 

Mega site location in Northeast El Paso.
Another item involves building an “industrial” facility in Northeast El Paso. This could be related to the Edge of Texas “Mega Site,” a 1,042 acre shovel-ready parcel of land along US-54 near the New Mexico border. The City-owned property can quickly be sold for industrial purposes. With so much available land in the Northeast part of town, it is possible that the unnamed industrial project could be on a different property.

The final Executive Session item is in relation to building a hotel in downtown El Paso. It is unclear if it relates to renovation of a current building or a brand new hotel built from the ground up. Council recently approved two downtown hotel projects, including an incentives package for the former Artisan Hotel building and a permit to allow changes to a historic building for a possible boutique hotel.

Hotels have previously been rumored for certain properties, including the current parking lot across Main Drive from San Jacinto Plaza. The former City Hall property was also mentioned as a hotel site in years past but will be the future baseball stadium for the coming Triple-A ball club.

The City may be interested in supporting a new convention hotel for downtown. City officials have clashed in recent years with the ownership of the Camino Real Hotel due to deteriorating conditions and a general lack of upkeep at the convention hotel. The hotel is the largest in downtown El Paso and located directly across the street from the Convention Center. 

It was recently revealed that the Camino Real only keeps about 120 rooms in operating condition, out of 357 rooms, significantly reducing the number of downtown hotel rooms. The Camino Real Hotel is owned and operated by Grupo Empresarial Angeles of Mexico City.

If City Council members deem it appropriate, they may discuss and/or take action on these items in open session. City Council will discuss the items at the August 27, 2013 meeting.


  1. I really hope they try and bring a water park to El Paso. Wet N Wild is too far, and the park is deteriorating at a fast pace.

  2. Downtown El Paso is ready for a new hotel to be built!and it is more than long over due for one.
    With the construction of the new baseball stadium and a new downtown arena in the near future, El Paso better be ready. The Camino Real has really gone down the gutter as Grupo Empresarial Angeles don't have any desire to spend any money renovating the Camino Real,even when the city offered them a tax incentive. El Paso has already lost the LULAC convention that was to be held in downtown because of lack of hotel rooms and the Camino Real not being in good quality condition.
    So the city should start looking into plans to build a good size hotel maybe 400 to 500 rooms.
    A water park next to Cohen stadium would be a good idea,now if and when they build it is the question. And a Industrial Facility in North East El Paso is music to my ears! 1,042 acres is nearly 100 acres less than Golden Gate Park in San Francisco,this property is huge. Would bring the city plenty of revenue so the city can build a new City Hall to replace the one that was imploded in order to build the ballpark stadium.
    Armando is right! Many hotels where once rumored to be built where the former city hall building was. Like in the early seventies they wanted to build a 32 story Sheraton Hotel then that fell through; a 25 story Hyatt Regency was schedule to go up. But with the collapse of the Hyatt Regency indoor balcony in Kansas City! put a stop to the downtown hotel plans in El Paso. There was one more hotel planed at the city hall site that was to be built next to city hall but never materialized,it was to be a 19 story Hilton.
    Oh well! at least we are getting a new triple A team with a stadium to go with it at the former hotel's and city hall site! :)