Tuesday, November 5, 2013

New Urbanism Puts El Paso in Spotlight

City Approached to Help Others Learn Planning Concepts

The City of El Paso shifted its focus a few years back to promoting smart growth, mixed-use, and walkable developments, and now officials in other U.S. cities are reaching out to El Paso when it comes to learning about new urbanism.
Mesa Street near UTEP reimagined using new urbanism and smart growth principles. (Plan El Paso)

El Paso officials developed a nine-week session on new urbanism to help affiliate internal department heads and engineers with the principles of mixed-use and sustainable neighborhood development, led by Mathew McElroy, Director of the City Development Department. Shortly thereafter, the sessions were opened up to local developers.

The fruits of the City’s labors have become clear as developments using new urbanism ideals are sprouting up. The developer of the Montecillo smart growth community has begun construction on SmartCode zoned lots, a first for El Paso, and another SmartCode development, Aldea, is planned immediately to its south.
New urbanism concepts include creating walkable neighborhoods with a mix of housing types. This concept image envisions such a neighborhood for the corner of Rojas Drive and Zaragoza Road where a credit union is currently located. (Plan El Paso)

Now, officials from other cities have taken notice and invited the City to teach new urbanism to their engineers and development personnel. In January, McElroy will run a learning session for scores of government workers in Oklahoma City, and another session is planned for Austin.

An article last month in Governing Magazine (www.governing.com) highlights the City’s efforts and goals in developing the learning sessions.
This rendering shows a new vision for Mesa Street in front of a shopping center which currently holds a Walmart and Home Depot. (Plan El Paso)

The City’s biggest new urbanism effort has been the implementation of Plan El Paso, the extensive planning document that was adopted into the comprehensive plan last year. The plan calls for creating walkable, smart growth neighborhoods throughout the city, incorporating many concepts of new urbanism.

Plan El Paso won the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2011 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement and has been lauded by development agencies and publications throughout the United States.

The entire Plan El Paso document can be seen at planelpaso.org. The Lead Consultant on the project was Dover, Kohl & Partners of Florida (www.doverkohl.com).