Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Plans Revealed for Former ‘El Cruzero’ Land

River Oaks Seeks Mixed Use Zoning for 113 Acres in East El Paso

The developer of a Far East El Paso property formerly slated for a smart growth development has submitted a rezoning application showing the planned layout for 113.7 acres of the site. The property was part of the larger ‘El Cruzero’ development that was cancelled in 2013 when the owner sold the involved parcels to River Oaks Properties.
Single-family homes (in yellow) will make up the majority of the 113-acre Desert Sands development proposed by River Oaks Properties. A linear park will occupy the median of a north-south street. (City of El Paso)

Now referred to as ‘Desert Sands’ in the master zoning plan, River Oaks proposes to develop the property under Residential Mixed Use (RMU) zoning that includes single-family, duplex, triplex, and quadruplex units. It is currently zoned C-4 Commercial.

The RMU designation means neighborhoods will be constructed in a more compact manner with a focus on promoting walkability. This includes shorter block lengths and recreational facilities within one-eighth of a mile walking distance.

Providing a “range of housing types and price levels” is also a focus of the development, according to the master zoning plan. Residential areas will abut “neighborhood commercial” uses.
The Desert Sands development is located northeast of the Loop 375 and Montana Avenue interchange, pictured here in yellow. Walmart and Lowe's stores can be seen to the south.

The perspective of buildings and landscaping will contribute to pedestrian friendly streets, with a focus on neighborhood parks. Buildings will have zero setbacks, according to the plan, meaning facades will be at or nearly at the sidewalk.

The proposed layout differs significantly from El Cruzero’s ambitious illustrative plan. Desert Sands will have a standard grid design, with all streets meeting at right angles. A main thoroughfare is proposed that will travel north and south through the development, with a linear park occupying the median area. There are two smaller neighborhood parks towards the middle of the site plan.

Culdesacs are located on the northern and southern portions of the site. Single family parcels will occupy the vast majority of the development, with two-, three-, and four-unit buildings slated for a narrow strip of the development jutting up from the northwestern corner of the property.

The site plan for the former
El Cruzero project which was
cancelled in 2013. (City of El Paso)
El Cruzero, cancelled in March of 2013, had a somewhat different vision for the same site. The illustrative site plan included a mix of residential, civic, and flex space, properties that could include office, residential, or retail activities. Multiple parks and open space areas were planned.

The 113.7-acre portion of the former El Cruzero property now being called Desert Sands encompasses the northeastern portion of the 220 acres sold to River Oaks Properties last year. River Oaks has not disclosed its final plans for the southern portions of the property, which included a hotel block, higher density residential, and a town center in El Cruzero’s plans.

River Oaks told El Paso Inc. last year that it intends to bring a development called Town Center on the Loop to 50 acres at the site, but mentioned no timeline nor whether it intends to incorporate smart growth into its design.

River Oaks is one of the largest commercial real estate developers in El Paso, making Desert Sands stand out as a residential development for the company. According to the master zoning plan, the project will be constructed in one phase and should take two years to complete, though no starting date is mentioned.

The City Plan Commission will consider the rezoning request at its July 17, 2014 meeting.