EL PASO, Texas - El Paso City Council Tuesday voted to approve, with Mayor Dee Margo breaking a tie, a concept proposal for the development for a new high-rise building Downtown.
The City recently considered bids from five different companies to build a public-private mixed-use urban development near City Hall. The site proposed for redevelopment is a full downtown block of Campbell Street from Mills Avenue to Main Street. It is about 67,600 square feet and currently used for surface parking. City documents state the site is located in El Paso's Downtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone.
Several city representatives asked to postpone the vote another two weeks, but Mayor Margo broke a 4-4 tie, thereby allowing Council to vote on the concept for the new development. Council then voted to approve the initial proposal for the development.
City representatives Cassandra Brown-Hernandez, Alexsandra Annello, Cissy Lizarraga, and Sam Morgan voted against approving the concept proposal. Brown-Hernandez said she wants to learn more about the proposal.
"I think we need to do this right. I think each council member needs to briefed thoroughly and I think we need to do a better job of communicating to the public what we are going to approve," Brown-Hernandez said.
Cary Westin, the City's Economic and International Development Director, told Council its vote was merely "affirming the selection of the applicant, but not the details behind the project."
"The evaluation committee came back and said that this particular firm was the highest ranked proposer for this particular project and all we are doing is moving forward to continue discussions with them. They have not been awarded anything at this point," said Monica Lombraña, the City's managing director.
"I don't think we have enough information even up until this point," Anello said, "I think this is the beginning of the process ... but we were blindsided on this today. "
"The question was: did we really follow the process? We haven't done many public-private partnerships of this magnitude, and did we follow the correct process in the procurement? The city explained to us that, yes, they did," Margo said.
City documents state the development will be for a 26-story high-rise featuring 36,000 square feet of retail space, 180 luxury apartments, 180 hotel rooms, and 1,104 parking lot spaces, 700 of which will be owned by the City.
The concept proposal was submitted by the Meyers Group, the same developer behind the two 22-story towers in West El Paso and the renovation of the historic Camino Real Hotel in Downtown El Paso.
The proposal states the 26-story building was conceived with the vision of transforming Downtown El Paso into a flourishing city center. It states the emphasis of the project is to offer those who live and work Downtown, as well as tourists, to look at the area for fun and enjoyment. It also states it looks to alleviate some of the parking issues in Downtown.
The rooftop of the garage will feature a 40,000 square feet amenity deck shared by both the hotel and the apartments. It will consist of two pools, landscaping, a recreational area, fitness and spa center, and a child play sand area.
Parts of the proposal are blacked out, which include the hotels and boutique operations that are interested in moving into the proposed building.
The amenity deck will also be covered with vegetation to reduce heat-island effect and hide the parking garage from the apartments above.
The completed project is expected to provide 140 full-time jobs, and 40 part-time jobs. 100 of those jobs are expected to be in retail, 10 for parking management, 15 for the hotel, and seven for the apartments.
The City will now work with The Meyers Group on a development agreement. In about six months, city officials plan to return to Council with details of the what the City's role would be in the project, including possible tax incentives. Council could approve or deny the proposed agreement.