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Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 12:51am
EL PASO — There's a renaissance in Downtown El Paso. There's so much change that you may not know everything that's happening.
"Imagine a downtown where new stores are popping up; imagine a downtown with breathtaking historical buildings. Well that's actually happening right now," said Dennis Melonas with the Central Business Association.
The core of the Sun City is going through a revolution and people are noticing. We caught Phil Telfeyan from Washington DC taking pictures in San Jacinto Plaza.
"Here El Paso is clearly doing a lot to make the area attractive and welcoming. Big public spaces, big parks, places for people to sit and talk and just spend time," said Telfeyan.
The biggest project in the works is the baseball stadium. The city will build it where City Hall stands now. MountainStar Sports Group, a group of local business owners, purchased the Tucson Padres, which will make El Paso it's new home. The ballpark will be ready for play in 2014.
“We are standing in the heart of downtown El Paso. We're standing in San Jacinto Plaza and this very plaza is undergoing a lot of different changes in the coming months," said Marissa Monroy with El Paso’s Economic Development Department.
San Jacinto Plaza is going to get to $5 million in renovations. The city is adding a splash pad, an outdoor dining area, a retail kiosk, more trees and more seating areas. The city said it will keep the Los Lagartos sculpture in the plaza. Construction should begin by the end of this year.
"It's not just here. It's everywhere around here," said Monroy.
Across the street from San Jacinto Plaza, sits the vacant Martin Building and it's in desperate need of a facelift. Developer Lan Gadie is looking into taking on the project and using the space in various ways.
"They want to put retail space on the first floor and then residential units on the second, third and fourth floors," said Monroy.
The 100-year-old Anson Mills Building overlooking the plaza recently got a major renovation. Anson Mills built the 12-story building in 1911.
El Paso Businesses man Paul Foster bought it in 2008. Foster promised to preserve its historical architecture and he did.
Companies like New York Life have moved in.
"Just made a decision we wanted to stay downtown and contribute to the great things that are happening down here," said Stephen Nagy. "El Paso's right on the brink of this incredible explosion and we're just excited to be a big part of that now."
Other businesses will soon call the Mills Building home.
Anson 11 on the street level will be the only five star restaurants in the region.
"One of the big projects everyone is actually really excited about is a Starbucks. It’s going in on the first floor of the Mills Building. It should open in the next month or so," said Monroy.
Just around the corner, CVS, the nation's second largest drugstore chain picked downtown for its first El Paso store. It will open on Mesa and Texas this month.
Melonas said many other businesses are calling him.
"I've had major retailers, corporate, mom and pop shops, franchises have called me. We just got a call from LA a couple minutes ago. People that want to take a tour and open some businesses,” said Melonas.
With all of these new things in downtown, you may be thinking, how will I get there?
Changes are coming to streets downtown.
"Angular parking is also going to become something that's going to be studied and hopefully adding 50 percent more parking per block," said Melonas.
And if that's not enough, you can soon take a ride on street cars. They'll be electric powered and make 11 stops along the Mesa corridor.
"It's basically a chance to get either UTEP students down here or people over to the UTEP… people down here to the Cincinnati Area. It's just a way to alleviate some of the traffic that we see along Mesa," said Monroy.
Construction crews will start work sometime this year. Street cars should be rolling in 2015.
All of these projects are breathing life back into downtown El Paso.
"I think it really creates a better quality of life and when you create a better quality of life, you entice more people to want to come and live in El Paso and make El Paso their home,” said Monroy.