The City of El Paso last week adopted major initiatives based on ideas created during the Comprehensive Plan process headed by Dover-Kohl:
1) Reducing the minimum size of parks in new neighborhoods from 1 acre to ¼ acre provided those pocket parks meet certain design criteria including that they be lined with trees and faced by buildings;
2) Allowing pocket parks to be immediately fronted by homes without a throughfare between the two to create cottage courts and comfortable outdoor rooms with green spaces;
3) Allowing blade signs of a pedestrian scale as was once allowed during the City’s heyday; and
4) Resolving that Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach, by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and CNU be adopted as a recommended guideline for the City of El Paso by all departments.
The Plan El Paso project is still underway and the Comprehensive Plan document is being written, yet City planners are moving ahead with initiatives described in the plan.
The El Paso community met on Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at the Main Library in Downtown to review the draft Comprehensive Plan concepts developed during the West El Paso Charrette. This presentation addressed urban design, town planning, architecture, market analysis, and transportation planning work completed during the intensive two-week public process.
Over 150 community members were in attendance, including City Representatives Steve Ortega, Susie Byrd, and Beto O’Rourke, and County Judge Veronica Escobar. Mathew McElroy, Deputy Planning Director for the City of El Paso opened the meeting and described the City’s ongoing public process to develop a Comprehensive Plan. Victor Dover, principal-in-charge for the urban design firm Dover, Kohl & Partners, described the charrette process and the many forms of public input that shaped the plan over the two weeks, and introduced the plan’s main concepts. Laurie Volk, with housing market analyst firm Zimmerman\Volk Associates, spoke of the market potential for housing in the Downtown. Sarah Woodworth, with commercial market analyst firm w-ZHA, presented on the existing commercial strengths of the Downtown and the public-private partnerships that could result in increased vitality for the area. Jason King, project director from Dover, Kohl & Partners, discussed detailed plans for specific priority areas in the City, such as the former Northgate Mall property, Mesa Street, the Union Pacific railyards, and numerous sites in Downtown. Mike Lydon with the Street Plans Collaborative presented a draft Bicycle Action Plan with key steps that the City can take to become more bike-friendly.
Some of the concepts that were presented included:
- A new neighborhood center at the Northgate Mall site, including a new Transfer Center for the City’s Bus Rapid Transit system, and a mix of retail, office space, housing, and community facilities centered around public greens and plazas.
- Reintegrating City Hall and its functions back into the fabric of Downtown, whether by redeveloping the existing City Hall site or moving to a new location on the north side of San Jacinto Plaza.
- Creating new Plazas and community gardens in Segundo Barrio and other urban neighborhoods.
- Redeveloping the publicly-owned parking lots around the iconic Union Depot building to be a mix of shops, restaurants, and high-quality housing fronting a formal plaza, and promoting Union Depot as a destination for tourists and El Pasoans alike.
- Redesigning Mesa Street around UTEP to be more pedestrian-friendly, with wider sidewalks, on-street parking, and street-oriented buildings.
- Public-private partnerships to jump start reinvestment in Downtown properties, both for housing and commercial uses.
- A range of farmland preservation strategies for the Upper Valley.
- Phasing Downtown streets from one-way to two-way to improve bicycle and pedestrian mobility.
Attendees provided crucial feedback to the City and the Plan El Paso team through real-time keypad polling, questionnaires, and one-on-one conversations following the presentation. At the close of the evening, participants were asked, “Is the plan generally on the right track?” 96% of the audience pressed the buttons on their keypads for “yes” or “probably yes.” A registered translator was present throughout the event for Spanish-speaking participants.
The West El Paso Charrette was the third in a series of on-location, multi-week public input events held around the City since June 2010. Over 800 members of the public participated, contributing ideas that will shape the future of El Paso. During the spring of 2011, the design team will assemble the Comprehensive Plan, the guiding document for growth and investment in the City. A draft will be available for public comment in the summer.
Join the project team for a work in progress presentaton tonight at the Downtown Main Library.
SEE the design work that has been produced on charrrette…
LEARN about the next steps for the comprehensive plan…
HEAR about the challenges that lay ahead for the city as it decides how to grow – now and in the future…
WORK IN PROGRESS PRESENTATION
Tuesday, February 22nd from 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Downtown Main Library at 501 North Oregon Street.