Friday, November 28, 2014

This is 'Metro 31': City Reveals Northgate SmartCode Project Details

Hunt Development Group Proposal Awaits Council Approval

Update: City Council has approved the project. 

Original Story: 
The City of El Paso has unveiled details on the planned 31-acre transit-oriented mixed-use project slated for the former Northpark Mall site in Northeast El Paso at the corner of Dyer Street and Diana Drive. The proposal, submitted by Hunt Development Group, will be considered by Council on December 2, 2014.
This concept image shows a residential area within Metro 31, the SmartCode development planned for Northeast El Paso. (City Council Agenda)

Renderings of the project, which is called Metro 31 in several places within the development agreement, show buildings laid out in an urban fashion with little to no setbacks from streets. Structures are of varying height and scale, with some apartment buildings rising four stories.

The property's uses can roughly be categorized into three areas, the largest being the residential section that takes up nearly the eastern half of the development. The central area and southwest corner contain mainly retail and office uses, and the northwest corner is dedicated to transit and includes a Sun Metro terminal.
The illustrative plan for Metro 31 in Northeast El Paso shows the layout of buildings within the development. (City Council Agenda)

According to site plan data, the project includes 135,115 square feet of retail space and approximately 100,000 square feet of office space. Included in the retail area is a 50,000 square foot grocery store.

In addition, the development will include 373 market-rate apartment units, 79 affordable units, and 43 live/work units.
This 3-D rendering of Metro 31 has been labeled with the general uses planned for the structures at the SmartCode development in Northeast El Paso. Northpark Mall once stood at the now-vacant property. (City Council Agenda)

Parks and plazas are sprinkled throughout including a central square with a small concert stage. Multiple "public greens" are located in different spots on the site plan.

Parking spaces are spread throughout the development, including widespread street parking, larger surface lots, and parking structures. One garage will be located within a residential block, with apartment buildings lining each side of the structure. This parking garage will rise 4.5 levels and include space for 472 cars.
An artistic rendering of the western entrance to the Metro 31 development off of Diana Street, coming to Northeast El Paso in the next few years. (City Council Agenda)

The development documents also include a phasing plan, indicating the project will go up in five phases. Phase 1 includes building streets, parks, and other infrastructure; Phase 2 will see the construction of the majority of market-rate apartment buildings as well as the transit facility; and Phase 3 involves construction of the grocery store.

Phase 4 includes construction of the retail/office structures, some of which will include loft apartments on the upper floors. And Phase 5 will see construction of the affordable housing apartments.
A more detailed look at the planned uses for Metro 31 in Northeast El Paso. Click to enlarge. (City Council Agenda)

Vertical construction may not be seen for a few years, according the development agreement's timeline. Completion of Phase 1's infrastructure is tentatively scheduled for June of 2017. However, the agreement also states that phases may be completed in any order and concurrently if needed.
This map shows the phasing plan for the Metro 31 project. After streets and infrastructure, the second phase focuses on market-rate apartments and the transit development. Phases may also be constructed at the same time. (City Council Agenda)

The ultimate design of the project may also change, with final design documents due on September 1, 2015.

The City is seeking to enter into a Chapter 380 incentives agreement with Hunt in order to move forward with the project. The incentives amount to $13.7 million in sales and use tax rebates, and property tax rebates (of the City's portion).
Apartment structures at Metro 31 will mainly be located on the eastern half of the development, the top half in this schematic. Housing types vary and include apartments and lofts. (City Council Agenda)

The City of El Paso purchased the property years ago and demolished the Northpark Mall complex that had stood mostly empty for many years. The property, which is also known as Northgate, has remained vacant while the City has looked for solutions for the relatively large plot of land.

In recent years, the City began seeking proposals for redevelopment of Northgate, receiving some within the last year.

The estimated cost of the proposed development is $112 million.

What’s In Store For 2014
Northpark Transit Project May Receive $15.2 Million