Master plans move forward
The Public Service Board and El Paso City Council have taken impressive steps forward in promoting responsible, sustainable, mixed-use development of the highest quality in El Paso. Both entities approved moving forward with master plan development using the city's SmartCode standards for hundreds of acres of PSB-owned land along Transmountain Road in Northwest El Paso.
The board also approved master plans for PSB-owned land along US 54 in Northeast El Paso.
Plans for the Northwest El Paso tract were developed by El Pasoans working in concert with the renowned urban planners of Dover, Kohl & Partners.
"You start with the green and you design around it," said Dover Kohl's Jason King. "A lot of the El Paso neighborhoods people talk about incorporate the same principles."
He pointed to neighborhoods like Kern Place, Sunset Heights, Austin Terrace, Manhattan Heights and landmark communities like Old Mesilla in stating that responsible, first-class development can create new neighborhoods and communities that improve quality of life.
Dover Kohl is seen as a front-runner in the New Urbanism movement. New Urbanism refers to development principles that encourage the creation of walkable neighborhoods that integrate open space and natural landform features into mixed-use neighborhoods. Those principles are woven into El Paso's SmartCode.
While SmartCode developments offer New Urbanism benefits by creating satisfying places to live, they also marry seamlessly with El Paso Water Utilities' record of promoting innovative methods of water conservation and proactive stormwater management.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina found that even development on previously untouched parcels that include New Urbanism elements – like the tract along Transmoutain – are "far better than conventional development at protecting watersheds, mitigating the impact of runoff, and restoring degraded streams," according to the New Urbanism Best Practices Guide.
Such developments use compact street patterns, making it possible to preserve more open space. Additionally, University of Washington researchers found that residents of such communities consume less water than residents of traditional suburban neighborhoods.
837 Acres of Open Space
The Northwest Master Plan includes 837 acres of open space and unprecedented preservation of arroyos. By building more compactly, encouraging on-street parking and providing narrower streets, SmartCode developments require less pavement and impervious cover, therefore creating less runoff into the stormwater system.
The Public Service Board approved two similar plans for developing acreage it holds in trust in Northeast El Paso.
The board approved concepts drafted with public input by URS Corporation. Plans for a retirement community and mixed-used development adjacent to Painted Dunes Desert Golf Course seek to create unique senses of community and place, reinforce views of the Franklin Mountains and incorporate existing trails and open space.
The buildout of these master plans won't happen overnight. The pace of buildout will be governed by market conditions. However, whenever acreage is sold and developed, it must be built to the very high standards set forth by the PSB and City Council.