Thursday, July 28, 2016

Downtown El Paso Alive with Investment

A Comprehensive List of Downtown Projects   

By Armando Landin   

A couple of years back, it was the hope of City officials that a new baseball stadium and other Quality of Life projects would breathe new life into Downtown revitalization efforts and spur private investment in El Paso's largely-ignored center.

Downtown El Paso is seeing a clear surge of investment with private and public projects spread throughout the area. 

The Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas are now in their third season, and two short years after Southwest University Park opened its gates on the site of the former City Hall, signs of burgeoning investment are becoming clear.

Here is a summary of some of the private and public projects that are ongoing or planned in and around Downtown El Paso, in no particular order.

Aloft Hotel at Bassett Tower

One of Downtown El Paso's most visible historic buildings is O.T. Bassett Tower, located at 303 Texas Avenue, an Art Deco treasure designed by renowned architect Henry C. Trost. Now, a team led by businessman Lane Gaddy is renovating the 15-story building into a 100-room Aloft-branded hotel.

The mostly vacant Bassett Tower in Downtown El Paso will come alive in 2017 when its doors reopen as an Aloft Hotel. (Downtown Management District)
The historic building, built in 1930, has been largely vacant for several years. The Aloft Hotel will be located at 301 Texas Avenue and will include a W XYZ Bar, an indoor pool, and 3,000 square feet of meeting space.

(Previously: Downtown Aloft Hotel Transformation Gets Facade Improvement Grant)

Work is ongoing at the site and the hotel is scheduled to open its doors in September 2017, according to its website. Aloft is part of the Starwood brand of hotels and resorts which also includes W, Westin, and Sheraton hotel lines.

Martin Lofts/ElectriCity

Gaddy is also behind the Martin Lofts revitalization project just a block away which transformed the historic Martin Building from office use to residential lofts at the corner of Stanton Street and Mills Avenue. The apartments are already mostly leased, but the building is just one of the projects under the ElectriCity umbrella.

The Martin Lofts is the first project under the ElectriCity moniker, located in Downtown El Paso. (ElectriCity)
An infill project has created a commercial building right next door in a former surface parking lot. And just across the alley, the former Tejas building has also transformed into modern structure that will be used for commercial purposes.

(Previously: Downtown Mixed Use: Martin Building Project to Merge Historic with Brand New; Martin Building Apartments Could be Named 'ElectriCity,' Get Giant Lit Sign)

The Martin Building was originally completed in 1917 and designed with commercial Chicago-style elements, according to the Texas Historical Commission. It now offers 42 apartments and retail uses in the ground-floor storefronts. A new, giant lighted "ELECTRICITY" sign will soon adorn the top of the building.

Plans are to install a large sign reading "ELECTRICITY" at the top of the Martin Lofts in Downtown El Paso. (ElectriCity Instagram)
The sign is an homage to one that the El Paso Electric Company raised in 1950 when its offices were located in the building. The sign at the top of the building read "USE ELECTRICITY."

Popular Dry Goods Building

The corner of Mesa Street and San Antonio Avenue is dominated by the historic Popular Building, with a classic white facade that stretches elegantly in each direction at a wide angle. Now, a project is underway to renovate the iconic building, according to an El Paso Inc story.

This undated photo shows the historic Popular Dry Goods building in Downtown El Paso. Plans are underway to renovate the building and create lofts on the upper floors. (El Paso Public Library)
California-based retailer Fallas Paredes is the current owner of the building and is developing plans to return the historic building to its former glory. It hopes to turn the vacant upper floors of the structure into loft apartments.

The Popular building was completed in 1918 and also designed by Henry C. Trost. There is no timeline available for the project as it is in the early stages of development.

Artspace Lofts

Work is nearing completion at the site of the Artspace Lofts, a project that will bring 51 affordable apartment units to Downtown El Paso in a brand new, modern building.

The Artspace Lofts in Downtown El Paso are nearing completion and will look similar to this rendering once completed. (Artspace)
The four-story structure is going up at the corner of Oregon Street and Missouri Avenue, the site of the former El Paso Saddleblanket.

(Previously: Artspace El Paso Lofts to Open November 2016)

Artspace officials will soon begin taking applications from local artists who would like to live in one of the live/work loft spaces. The Artspace Lofts are scheduled to open in November.

601 North Mesa (Hunt Tower)

El Paso-based Hunt Companies has plans to build a mid-rise tower across the street from the Artspace Lofts, according to signs at the location which formerly housed a bank and is currently a parking lot.

Hunt Companies of El Paso is planning a mid-rise tower for the city's Downtown. The Artspace Lofts and Doubletree Hotel are seen to the west in this rendering. (601 North Mesa website)
Hunt purchased the property at 601 North Mesa Street in 2014, which is bounded by Mesa, Missouri Avenue, Oregon Street, and Wyoming Avenue.

Few details are available on this project, which is still in the planning stages. The lone available rendering shows a glass-clad tower with nine to eleven floors. The property is located in a prominent spot adjacent to Interstate 10.

Courtyard by Marriott

El Paso businessman Jim Scherr is planning to construct a nine-story hotel across the street from the Triple-A ballpark in Downtown. Plans for the hotel came to light in March 2016.

A nine-story Courtyard by Marriott is planned for Downtown El Paso. (Mitchell Carlson Stone, Inc.)
The Courtyard by Marriott hotel will have four floors for rooms atop a five story parking garage, as well as a pool deck, a ground-floor lobby, and an attached park. The property is located at the corner of Santa Fe Street and Wyoming Avenue.

(Previously: Courtyard by Marriott Plans New Hotel Next to Downtown Ballpark)

Scherr was the driving force behind the Doubletree Hotel just a block away, a project that turned a long-vacant and deteriorating highrise into a modern hotel facility. No timeline has been revealed for the $18 million Courtyard project.

Hotel Paso del Norte

A long awaited renovation of the historic Camino Real Hotel is close to becoming a reality. City officials in mid-July revealed an agreement with a developer to redevelop the property as El Paso's main convention hotel.

The historic Hotel Paso del Norte hotel in Downtown El Paso will soon undergo a $70 million renovation. (Camino Real El Paso)
The $70 million project is headed by Florida-based Meyers Group and Two Sabes LLC of El Paso. The joint venture has a tentative contract to purchase the hotel from a Mexican ownership group. It is located at 101 South El Paso Street.

(Previously: $70M Camino Real Hotel Renovation Plan Announced)

The hotel is likely to drop the Camino Real brand, but no word on what the new hotel brand will be. Work on the renovation should begin by early 2017 with an expected completion in two years.

Franklin Avenue Apartments

A vacant lot just 800 feet from the Downtown ballpark will soon be home to a 14-unit apartment complex, located adjacent to the Old San Francisco Historic District at 617 West Franklin Avenue.

A rendering showing what the Franklin Apartments will look like once completed in Downtown El Paso. (Exigo Architecture)
The infill project is small in scope but has proportions that fit in with other buildings in the neighborhood. It is already under construction and should be ready for occupancy in the coming months.

(Previously: Brand new apartments planned near the Downtown El Paso ballpark)

Ballpark Lofts

Another project by the same developer as the Franklin Apartments will create new, upscale townhomes adjacent to Southwest University Park.

The Ballpark Lofts in Downtown El Paso will feature three large townhomes adjacent to Southwest University Park. (Exigo Architecture)
The Ballpark Lofts will include three 2,600 square foot units which will be three stories each and include balconies and rooftop terraces. A garage will be on the sublevel along Missouri Avenue.

(Previously: Planned Lofts Could Overlook Downtown Ballpark)

These units will be uniquely situated such that they will offer views into the ballpark. No construction timeline is available for this project.

Savoy Loft Apartments

This project is bringing 27 studio apartments to a historic building at 116 South Stanton Street, bordering both the government district and the Golden Horseshoe shopping district.

The Savoy Loft Apartments in Downtown El Paso will include 27 studio apartments. (Bearing Development)
Units will range in size from 550 to 820 square feet. No opening date or rental rates have been announced.

(Previously: See New Renderings of Savoy Apartment Loft Units Slated for Downtown El Paso)

Stanton Boutique Hotel

Another historic building, located at 209 North Stanton Street, is quietly undergoing rehabilitation and will become a still-unnamed boutique hotel. The building, adjacent to the Martin Lofts, will have 43 rooms once completed.

A rendering of a boutique hotel coming to Downtown El Paso, adjacent to the Martin Lofts. (City of El Paso)

The structure, historically known as the Rogers Furniture building, was completed in 1915, and the current developer rescued the facade from previous plans to demolish it. No opening date has been announced for the hotel.

(Previously: New Vision for Downtown Structure Approved by Historic Landmark Commission)

Public Projects

The City is still working on getting projects completed that are part of the Quality of Life bonds approved by voters in 2012.

A location has been selected for the $19.25 million Children's Museum, a property that currently serves as a bus washing station and maintenance facility for Greyhound. The City is purchasing the lot at 201 West Main Street, which is across the street from both the Museum of Art and the Convention Center.

The property is relatively small and would be considered half a block, with depressed railroad tracks separating it from the other side of the city block.

Unlike the museum project, there has been no location announced for the Multi-Purpose Arena, the largest project approved by voters. The City's last update on the project included hiring consultants to acquire land for the $180 million arena, but there has been no final location disclosed.

Recently revealed plans for the upcoming Mexican American Cultural Center show that the Quality of Life project will be built around the existing Abraham Chavez Theater. A new entrance will be constructed at the corner of Santa Fe Street and San Antonio Avenue.

The Mexican American Cultural Center will be built around and incorporate the existing Abraham Chavez Theater in Downtown El Paso. (City of El Paso)
Closer to City Hall, the City is reviewing proposals for a public/private partnership that would turn a surface parking lot into a mixed-use development. The City will require a parking structure with 500 to 700 spaces for municipal uses, with the private developer using any additional spaces.

The City hopes for a multi-story structure that includes retail and restaurant uses on the ground floor with possible residential and/or hotel units on upper floors. Proposals were due by March 2016, and the city has since been evaluating any that were received. No timeline has been announced for this project.

Finally, the Streetcar project is most likely the one currently affecting most visitors to Downtown El Paso. The $97 million project will create two loops, one circulating the Downtown area and the other connecting Downtown to the University of Texas at El Paso. Crews recently started laying rail for the project.

(Previously: Workers to Begin Laying Streetcar Rail in June)

Keep checking El Paso Development News for updates and any new projects that come to light.