Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mixed-Use Project Set For Union Plaza

Development Includes Apartments & Retail with a Sunken Courtyard

Construction will soon begin on the transformation of a vacant Downtown El Paso building into a mixed-use structure with retail and apartment elements. The building, located at 513 West San Antonio Avenue, can be found in the historic Union Plaza district on the western edge of Downtown.
A new mixed-use project for Union Plaza in El Paso is getting underway. This rendering shows the building after completion. (Courtesy Liev Arch)

The long, narrow building will contain retail on the first and basement levels, with apartments on the second and third floors. A sunken courtyard will be created along the back of the building with landscaping and a water feature.

The vacant building in Union Plaza should
be transformed by spring of 2015.
(Courtesy Liev Arch)
According to the architect on the project, Carlos Lievanos of Liev Arch of El Paso, the structure dates to the early 1900’s. The renovation design maintains the historic character of the facade, with plans to restore the brickwork and add only a “Texas canopy” along the retail spaces on the street level. The canopy will help to showcase the retail spaces along San Antonio Avenue, he indicates, helping draw customers to the shops. Lievanos was also the architect on The Mix at Union Plaza project nearby.

The only other major change to the front facade will be the addition of retail windows and doors, and the upgrading of windows on the second and third floors. According to Lievanos, the building has historically been used this way, with retail on the ground floor and apartments on the floors above.
Catwalk balconies will extend from the two apartment levels as part of the project, overlooking the retail courtyard below. (Courtesy Liev Arch)

The idea behind creating a sunken courtyard in the back is to provide access to future retail spaces on the basement level. Stairs on either end will take pedestrians to and from the courtyard, with a lift included for those needing ambulatory assistance. Tenants of the basement level retail may be able to lease part of the courtyard for additional seating, if needed.

Renderings for the courtyard space show a variety of landscaping and paving elements, seating areas, and a water feature at one end. And, in addition to providing access to the basement level retail, the courtyard will connect to another building owned by the same developer. That building, known as the Coffee Bean Building, will be developed as phase two of the project.

The upper floors will have a total of 13 apartment units, according to Lievanos, ranging in size from 400 to 500 square feet. Rates for the small apartments, though not set, should be in the same range as those found at The Mix across the street.
This floor plan illustrates the 3rd floor layout of the building, showing several planned apartment units. (Courtesy Liev Arch)

Two rear catwalk balconies will be accessible by residents and will hover over the sunken courtyard below. Materials used will include exposed steel columns, beams, and railings that “reflect a modern twist to the historic Union Plaza train district.”

Parking availability for tenants has not yet been finalized. A nearby lot may be utilized for this purpose.

Adding more housing options to the area is key to making Downtown revitalization successful, according to Lievanos, and this project will help to do that.

“We have all this entertainment, but hardly anybody lives nearby,” says Lievanos. “This was an opportunity to take a historic building and revitalize it for that purpose. Residents will be able to go down and get a bite to eat, grab some coffee, and like having that nearby without having to leave the area.”
The sunken courtyard will provide access to basement-level retail spaces. Landscaping includes vegetation and a water feature. (Courtesy Liev Arch)

Indeed, the new project is just steps away from multiple restaurants, bars, and shops that have opened up in recent years as part of Union Plaza’s renaissance. Also nearby: the brand new Triple-A baseball stadium that opened this year, just two and a half blocks to the north.

The developer hopes to have the project completed in the first half of 2015, perhaps by March or April. The contractor on the project is Devo Design & Construction of El Paso.

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