Projects to spruce up Downtown El Paso advance
As part of the Downtown revitalization efforts, the city is building tree canopy walkways, installing tree-string-lights, replacing hundreds of decorative street lights and erecting signs and maps to guide pedestrians. In addition, the city is moving forward with the redesign of San Jacinto Plaza.
The Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) will allocate $5 million for the projects, with the initial $1 million in 2013 and annual contributions of $400,000 for 10 years.
The money will be transferred to the city general revenue fund for city management to use as needed.
A Downtown antique lighting project will consist of replacing more than 800 decorative street lights throughout the area with energy saving lights, said Matthew McElroy, director of the city's Development Department.
City Rep. Steve Ortega asked McElroy to research the actual light fixture and posts that were in El Paso 100 years ago. He suggested looking at historic photos of Downtown.
"I would like to bring those back to the community so that we have lighting in our Downtown that is historically accurate," he said.
McElroy said the project is in its early stages.
"We will be looking for energy efficient lighting and then within the range of pedestrian street lighting there is lots of choices in the term of pole designs," McElroy said.
A maximum of $1.4 million from the TIRZ will be used to replace the street lights. The cost to replace each light is about $1,700.
Other improvements will be the installation of LED tree lights to all trees in The Paseo de Las Luces, or the Walk of Lights, on South El Paso Street. The TIRZ will allocate $500,000 to restore The Paseo de Las Luces.
The Central Business Association asked the city to bring back the tree-string-lights to the corridor, said City Manager Joyce Wilson.
The Paseo de Las Luces was first created in the mid-90s and it is also known as the shopping district. Thousands of shoppers visit the area every day.
Tree canopies will be planted all around the area at 30-feet spacing and way-findings signs will be place throughout Downtown providing pedestrians "the ability to navigate Downtown in a much more efficient way than they do today," McElroy said.
Way-finding signs will indicate the location of relevant places in Downtown such as museums, the Plaza Theatre, parks, government buildings, among others. The TIRZ will allocate $1 million for the projects.
Some of these projects are expected to start next year.
"These sorts of improvements, to me, are very exciting," said city Rep. Cortney Niland.
Niland, who represents the area, said these projects complement the plan to make Downtown more attractive to people and businesses.
Currently engineers are working on the construction drawings for the San Jacinto Plaza redevelopment plan. TIRZ will allocate $1 million for the project, which is expected to cost $5 million.
The park improvements will include paving, water features, seating areas, additional green areas, a park café, a shade structure, a stage, entry plaza, bocce court, street promenades and a table-tennis courtyard. The plaza will keep the "Los Lagartos" sculpture at the center.
Aileen B. Flores may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6362.