San Jacinto Plaza renovations to begin in July

Plaza to close for 18 months during construction

POSTED: 11:00 AM MDT Jun 20, 2013    UPDATED: 05:34 PM MST Jan 15, 2014 
EL PASO, Texas -

The heart of downtown El Paso is getting a new look.

Construction at San Jacinto Plaza is set to begin in July, forcing the close of the plaza for 18 months.

Part of the construction will be funded by the Quality of Life bonds approved by voters last November.

El Paso's Engineering and Construction Management Department scheduled an open house Thursday morning at the El Paso Museum of History to discuss the future of San Jacinto Plaza with the public.

The redesign of the plaza is expected to attract more businesses, pedestrians and shoppers to downtown.

Renovations include wider sidewalks, new landscaping, shaded areas, a water feature and more lights. It will be done in two phases by California-based design firm SWA Group.

In June 2012, city council approved more than a half a million dollars to contract SWA. The funds came from 2010 Transportation Certificates of Obligation.

The closure of the San Jacinto Plaza forces organizers of the annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony to move the event to a different location.

For 2013 and 2014, the event could be moved to the Magoffin Home in south El Paso, but officials have not confirmed that change.

Once the renovation is complete, the lighting ceremony will return to its home in downtown.

City officials have decided to keep the 'Los Lagartos' sculpture at the center of San Jacinto Plaza.