City Council: Smart Code project sought for West El Paso

by Diana Washington Valdez – El Paso Times

The City Council today will consider an economic proposal for a Smart Code project of about 204 acres near Interstate 10 and Executive Center Boulevard in West El Paso.

City Rep. Ann Morgan Lilly said the proposed Aldea development would include a new Wal-Mart.

“This will probably be our most important item on (today’s) agenda, and I expect a long discussion for it,” Lilly said.

If the city approves the agreement with Geltmore, LLC, then Aldea will become the third Smart Code development for El Paso, a signature policy of the current City Council.

Under the plan, the city would grant city property tax rebates to help pay for infrastructure that developers usually pay for, such as streets, parks and utilities, in exchange for using the Smart Code, city Rep. Beto O’Rourke said.

“The proposed agreement is similar to two other Smart Code developments the city has approved, Montecillo in the West Side and Cruzero at Joe Battle and Montana,” O’Rourke said. “It’s really exciting. It’s going to be a good deal for the community.”

Aldea lies to the south of Montecillo, which is located along the 5000 block of North Mesa Street, and includes a large arroyo.

Lilly said the project appeals to the city because the developers for Aldea plan to seek a bypass road between Executive Center and Sunland Park Drive to access the development.

“They also said they will save the arroyos that are there,” Lilly said.

Geltmore, LLC, a real estate firm based in Albuquerque, will have a representative present at today’s City Council meeting to discuss the project.

On Monday, Geltmore CEO Paul Silverman declined to comment on the proposal.

Environmental advocate Heather McMurray said that Asarco formerly owned the Aldea site and that officials should disclose whether it has any contamination from the smelter’s previous refining and incineration operations.

She also noted a diagram on a page attached to the City Council agenda item labeled “Miner Village,” which may indicate student housing for the University of Texas at El Paso.

However, UTEP officials said the Aldea project has nothing to do with the university, and city officials said the property was not used for smelter operations.

“The property consists of 204 acres of land located along I-10 between Executive Drive and Mesa Street,” according to geltmore.com. It is nearly three miles from Downtown El Paso and about a mile from UTEP.

“Ultimately the project will combine over one million square feet of high quality retail and entertainment, several hotels and more than one-quarter of a million square feet of office space with 1,245 new residential units of various sizes and types (apartments, condos, townhomes and live work studios accommodating seniors, students and everyone in between),” Geltmore’s website said.

City Rep. Susie Byrd said the city was able to negotiate for Wal-Mart to comply with Smart Code and not just be located within the typical C-4 commercial zoning that’s been in use throughout El Paso for major retailers.

Assuming the development evolves as envisioned, the high density, mixed-use project is expected to generate considerable tax revenues for the city above and beyond the tax rebates.

Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at dvaldez@elpasotimes.com; 546-6140.