Editor’s note: The Dallas firm of Claurus Visum Consulting Services reached out to us with a proposal to relocate the controversial Duranguito downtown sports arena to the Union Station District. What follows is their proposed alternative site to the so-called Duranguito arena site. In this guest article, Claurus Visum Consulting Services makes its argument as to why El Paso should consider the Union Station Depot and why they believed their proposal to be – in the long run – a significantly more prosperous location. We have applied minor changes to this article for readability purposes.
The Union Station is a very significant historical structure and not highly supported in the cultural realm of the region. As the proposed site for the El Paso downtown sports arena, it is believed that the Union Station District will be given a new breath of life and long-term usefulness.
Claurus Visum Consulting Services makes this presentation to advance the idea of why we believe this location is ideal for consideration as a new arena site.
By: Teresa Hernandez
Back when this photo was taken, beautiful buildings lined the street and shared the corner of the downtown city together.
From this photo above, it may have been that the El Paso Union Station had an outdoor rail platform to connect passengers to several locations. Those platforms are no longer there as can be seen in the next photo.
Although impossible to bring back the charm of this neighborhood, more can be done to preserve Union Station with new surrounding development.
Two: Arena Location
The area for an arena is west of the current Union Station.
The study area is bounded by the ballpark and the civic center to the east, the highway to the north, the railway to south, and the rail lines and highway to the west.
The image above shows what the American Airlines Center in Dallas Texas would look like if it were placed in the site selection for the arena – which would be next to the Union Station. It can be shifted left or right, up, or down, as needed. Note that the structure crosses the rail line. Other structures have been found to be over rail lines, so this is not unique.
What was once an open yard on the right is be partially covered as usable space where several high rise towers will sit on top on newly installed caisson piers in the example of the Hudson Yard in New York City.
This photo shows the platform above and normal railroad services continuing below.
A closer Texas view on this possibility is the existing City of Dallas convention center where one corner of the structure is over a rail line. This example is more fitting to the El Paso example due to the similar circumstance of placing a public structure over the rail.
An El Paso arena may have to be partially extended over the tracks as does the City of Dallas convention center example. By being elevated, it allows for re-establishing several rail platforms to be used for future rail development of multiple lines for the next-door Union Station.
Placing the proposed arena at the Union Station area can create a symbiotic relationship between the Union Station and a proposed arena that is more powerful economically than any one site proposed for just an arena.
Three: About the Location
The current location is owned by the City of El Paso and there is considerable land at the site. A parcel needed across the rail line is owned by the State of Texas and the railroads own all the other land that could impact the long-term project of the area. The image below shows the boundaries of the parcels involved.
As probably suspected by most, there is much elevation change in this area which can both be useful as well as being a design challenge. The major benefit is that the elevation has an east – west orientation.
As can be seen from the site location, the proposed site location is farther west than all of downtown. There is vacant land in between. The most northern east vacant land is outside of the study area but may be an important pedestrian corridor.
Four: Future Development Impact
This proposed Downtown Deck Plaza – in its planning stage – abuts Prospect Street. It would require the deck to be extended for pedestrian use from the Sunset Heights district, as shown below, to better connect to the Old San Francisco district and Union Station.
This added decking, which may only be pedestrian surface in nature, would connect the proposed Downtown Deck Plaza, Sunset Heights neighborhood, and Old San Francisco Historic District, which as the proposed arena is developed, it would connect with the Union Station district.
Five: Destinations and Pedestrian Flows
The purpose for building an arena is to improve the quality of life for the citizens of El Paso and attract outside companies to make El Paso their home. It is also about Urban Tourism – attracting tourists to visit El Paso downtown and its attractions.
The downtown deck plaza project would become a primary destination which features year around attractions. The civic center, the Chihuahuas baseball field, or a new arena somewhere else are primary destinations, but for seasonal or event driven events. Local shopping and hotels are secondary elements , that support the primary purpose for visiting downtown or the city in general.
Smart Growth  promotes the idea of mix land uses, compact design, housing opportunities, and walkable neighborhoods. A downtown deck plaza may be the largest public policy initiative to create the largest walkable location which would garner new patrons from Sunset Heights neighborhood.
Although the San Jacinto Plaza may also be a destination, the secondary elements nearby will further sustain it. The local hotels with bars and restaurants should co-exist with the park to keep the area pedestrian friendly. Currently, it is insufficient to sustain interest for local members of the community and event tourism. An expanded pedestrian population that goes from one destination to another will help the San Jacinto Plaza sustain itself. A downtown deck plaza will enhance its viability. It would be a major contributor as a destination and pedestrian generator.
The expanded pedestrian corridors between San Jacinto Plaza and the downtown deck plaza will benefit hotels, bars, restaurants, and secondary element shopping. Further, the occasional economic boost throughout the year from the civic center and the baseball stadium will better enhance the area.
The figure above shows how the introduction of the downtown deck plaza can expand the pedestrian traffic around several blocks. This leads to the question; how does an arena tie in?
Six: The Arena Impact
The arena may be a good investment for El Paso downtown. Many have expressed this to be true. The arena in the Union Station District offers some advantages other locations do not.
- Potential for large percentage of arena patrons to arrive by mass transit.
- Neatly tie up the most northwestern part of the downtown area with potential high pedestrian traffic and redevelopment where now only the Union Station stands alone. If no action is taken with the Union Station, it will one day face a fate where its uses are further diminished.
The proposal revives a train station which by previous examples is able to co-exist with a structure next to it without interfering with the rail lines.
- Create a pedestrian population flow that did not exist by opening a rail line 1/2 mile to Mexico.
- Is the only site that can create a Mexico redevelopment project.
Seven: Union Station and Arena
The arena can create a new destination as seen below in green next to the Union Station. The Union Station rail lines can be at grade level or underground to reach Mexico as shown in purple less than 1/2 mile away. It can use the border to create unobstructed east and west rail corridors as shown in green and blue. Already in service, in gray, is the Amtrak line and the possible addition of the New Mexico Road Runner line.
With just a Mexico connection, pedestrian traffic could be in the tens of thousands per month which is 1/10th of the current Paso Del North Bridge traffic as shown in the next image.
A major destination for pedestrians will be their visit to Mexico by rail and to a new developed area. Simultaneously, Mexican pedestrian visitors will enter through the Union Station to participate in events at the new arena, baseball stadium or the civic center.
As it so happens, across from a potential arena in El Paso, in Mexico, there is a large retail presence and a soccer stadium. A rail line from the proposed union station would go underground towards Mexico. Mexican officials can then decide to place a new terminal right by the border or closer to the soccer stadium. As much as El Paso needs Mexican pedestrians, Cd. Juárez also wants El Paso dollars and pedestrian traffic. This can also be a major destination for out-of-town visitors in either country.
This type of development would attract tourists from northern states to new less costly apartments and condos in Mexico. It can also be a major economic boost to this part of Cd. Juárez that is not based on the maquiladora trade.
It can also be a new model for pedestrian or rail only ports of entry that can be placed at numerous locations between Cd. Juárez, El Paso, Santa Teresa, or Sunland Park.
El Paso and Cd. Juárez already intermingle economically, but few examples truly bring this reality. As one of the first pedestrian-rail connection – in this case to connect El Paso and Cd. Juárez – for internal border economic development, it may serve as a model for other pedestrian ports of entry for economic development of the 15 shared miles between El Paso and Cd. Juárez.
The Union Station with this proposed connection to Mexico can become known world-wide. And it will provide the pedestrian traffic that will comingle with the downtown deck plaza and the San Jacinto Plaza pedestrians. Because of the different types of pedestrian traffic between day and night pedestrians, a development like this would create a robust pedestrian experience for everyone. The development of the arena and the secondary elements along with the Union Station will make this site selection a successful site for the proposed multipurpose downtown arena.
- Urban Tourism: The Visitor Economy and the Growth of Large Cities, Christopher Law.
- Smart Growth – https://smartgrowthamerica.org/what-is-smart-growth/
About The Authors
Is a native of the border city of Rivera Uruguay, Teresa came to Dallas Texas in her early 20’s. After attending a two-year community college, she got a job with several Spanish speaking local radio stations and had different functions in the radio media which included a morning news and weather segment.
In the early 2000’s Teresa started her own real estate company which she currently works as a broker realtor. As a broker, she helps problem solve with small Spanish speaking builders to get their business going to build houses by providing access to capital, encouragement, and helping to navigate city and county policies, programs, and rules. Pursuing a great need, she is pursuing teaching courses for builders in residential code and zoning.
In 2010, she collaborated to create bordercommerce.com and participated in the writing of a book which the latest version is the 2nd edition – Build This Wall. A partial segment of the book can be found on the website. It is about building barriers with economic function. Concepts include, virtual airport, virtual zip code, urban wall, circle wall, rural wall, 4-dimensional security, and border security is a FEMA remediation problem.
Realizing that coming up with solutions is a needed business demand, she created Claurus Visum Consulting Services as her own company to promote concepts to develop and discover new ideas. Although other projects have been started, this project about the Union Station is one she hopes is an entry point into a successful consulting career.
Lorenzo Villa Jr.
Is a native of El Paso and a UTEP graduate. He has lived in Dallas since 1996 after a stint with the U.S. Air Force. Villa currently lives in El Paso and Houston. With Teresa, they created bordercommerce.com and helped write the book which took ideas from both experiences living on the border. Villa is currently working for the City of Dallas in the Development Services Department and was with code compliance for over 15 years. Villa does some research and mapping for Teresa for her consulting company CVCSUSA.com.
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