Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Plan El Paso Provides Inspiration and Guidance on a Downtown Trolley, Redesign of San Jacinto, and a Proposed Quality of Life Initiative

The City of El Paso adopted Plan El Paso, a new city-wide comprehensive plan authored by Dover, Kohl & Partners, in March of 2012 after two years of public involvement. Signature projects envisioned and refined as part of that process near realization.

The El Paso City Council approved a five mile route for the construction of a trolley system from Downtown to UTEP along Oregon and Stanton Streets. Plan El Paso, and its predecessor project Connecting El Paso, helped make the case for the public investment that will spur private investment in the core of the City. Trolleys are iconic and serve to remind people of a time when El Paso had more streetcar rail in place than any other city in the country and the Downtown was one of the most vital in the Southwest. Trolleys will again be part of El Paso’s identity while creating focus areas for new investment at each of its stops. Plan El Paso directs public and private energies back onto the Downtown as a first priority and transit investments like the trolley are designed to rebuild a downtown for living, working and recreating.

San Jacinto Plaza as envisioned in the Comprehensive Plan utilizes the historic precedent of Spanish placitas by use of formal symmetries and multiple pathways to facilitate pedestrian movement under a restored canopy of trees. Pedestrians will be able to walk from any business or restaurant on the plaza to any other along a straight, shaded path. Outdoor recreation areas, cultural events, and outdoor dining are designed in the parterres between the pathways to make the plaza mayor a destination again. The City El Paso City Council has approved a $500,000 contract for the refinement of the vision and construction documents for the plaza.

Bond ballot questions in November will ask voters to consider approving up to $460 million for parks, recreation and sports facilities, and cultural and entertainment facilities. Plan El Paso details these investments, from what’s needed to serve the population to principles of civic design. These investments can build the fabric of the City in an attractive, walkable way. The streets of the city and the spaces in between buildings can be shaped to create outdoor rooms for activity. The urban design recommendations in Plan El Paso will help the City achieve its a goal of making El Paso the least-car-dependent city in the Southwest with each new investment.

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