Plan El Paso Expected To Change Look Of City Over Next Two Decades

EL PASO, Texas - It's called Plan El Paso.

A comprehensive plan, adopted unanimously by City Council Tuesday, which aims to greatly change our city over the next couple of decades.

The plan, which took two years to put together, is designed to be the guiding document to direct capital improvements, evaluate development, guide public policy and ensure that el paso will be the city people here want it to be.

"What the plan does, for the first time, is it sets us on par and even further ahead of the curve of other southwest cities like Tucson, Albuquerque and Phoenix," said Carlos Gallinar, the comprehensive plan manager for Plan El Paso. "If we are to compete in the 21st century, El Paso needs to start moving in that direction, which we are."

Turning streets that are not pedestrian user friendly into streets with sidewalks, shade and bike paths. And turning neighborhoods with more asphalt than anything, into smart growth neighborhoods that make people feel like leaving the car in the garage.

"In the immediate term, I think we'll start to see residential development look a little bit different," said City Representative Steve Ortega, a big supporter of the plan. "In the medium term, I expect downtown to be a first class downtown, and I think in the long term we're going to see more density with how we develop. Instead of constantly building out, we're going to start building up."

The plan calls for building up in places like the Cincinnati Entertainment District.

"Anything they do to make the city more agreeable for people to live has my vote," said West El Pasoan Keith Pannell.

Eighteen-year-old Erica Dominguez said it looks like a city she'd like to work in, especially after she saw drawings turning the downtown railyards into a central park.

"I think that would make it so much better," Dominguez said.

Which is exactly what Gallinar said planners had in mind.

"What we want is a hundred years from now, when someone is reading Plan El Paso 2012, they could say, 'You know, those people 100 years ago had it right.'"

Gallinar said there was concern from some developers, but many others agreed with the plan and are already building neighborhoods using smart growth principles.

After the plan's approval, Ortega pushed planners to come up with a schedule for the implementation of some of these projects. Gallinar said wheels are already in motion to set six-month, one-year and five-year guidelines for the plan.

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