Client: City of El Paso
Location: El Paso, TX, United States
Completion date: 2019
Edgar Lopez, AIA
Edgar Lopez, AIA
Fernando Trejo, AAIA
Yvonne Conde Curry, P.E.
Conde Engineering Inc.
Patricia Garcia, LI
Practical Solution Designs Landscape and Irrigation
Philip Robinet P.E.
Robinet Electrical Engineering
Javier Carlin, P.E.
City of El Paso
As an urban revitalization project in El Paso, the Paseo de Las Luces – Pioneer Plaza project creates a continuous pedestrian corridor connecting Cuidad Juarez, the sister city in Mexico, and El Paso’s central San Jacinto Plaza along the route that was El Paso’s first street. Paseo de las Luces (Walk of Lights) is the first phase of a multi-phase project to revitalize South El Paso Street from downtown to the foot of the international bridge crossing for pedestrians. At each end of the street, the corridor is anchored by an archway reflecting the art deco styling of the adjacent buildings. These same details are incorporated into spires that mark the intersection at Paisano Drive at the midpoint of the street. Juarez, Mexico also included these details in its central plaza, in a similar fashion.
To provide pedestrians with shaded and landscaped areas for relaxing, parklets were designed and added to the street. The parklets are freestanding structures that occupy a single parking spot and can be relocated as needed. Additionally, food truck slips were provided with seating, landscaping, and shore power so that the trucks could activate the street without running generators.
The Paseo de Las Luces – Pioneer Plaza Project precisely implemented the scope goals of the City of El Paso. The name, Paseo de Las Luces (Walk of the Lights) defines this street not simply as a passage, but also as a historic reference as El Paso’s first street that connected the young settlement to Paso del Norte as Juarez was historically known.
The streetscape is enhancing the physical environment of an established pedestrian pattern that functions as a connector between the sister cities' central plazas and shopping districts of each. The gateway arches are simultaneously architecture, public art and urban placemaking devices. The architectural elements have become sources of place identification - now widely found posted on social media feeds.
Programmatically, the improvements were carefully planned in collaboration with the community and business owners of the district. From an infrastructure standpoint the design team collaborated with development partners, including El Paso Electric, Texas Gas, El Paso Water Utilities, Sun Metro, and the Sun Metro Streetcars. Several public events have now used this street as a backdrop including Presidential Candidate Beto O’Rourke’s announcement rally and most recently, the annual One Region One Table event hosted by Progress 321.
InSitu was contracted by the City of El Paso to prepare urban design studies for improvements on El Paso Street, between the border crossing and the Pioneer Park Plaza. The collaboration involved many city departments and all utility providers, individual property owners, residents, business owners and users. Through a series of neighborhood and city planning sessions, the scope and program was developed into a more realistic vision. In*Situ prepared sketch plans and perspective studies of both street and sidewalk improvements, with the addition of pocket parks and other site furnishings. The design was enhanced with "festival" style lights crossing the street, and grand archways that celebrate the historical value of the street as a shopping district. At several public presentations, renderings were displayed for inclusion and public commentary, creating participation for all those interested. Following the period of public commentary, there was a process of program development with all city departments and other stakeholders, to clearly create demarcations of scopes of works and responsibilities, which in turn developed the schedule of implementation. Almost 4 years had passed from the time of early planning discussions until the completion of improvements at Pioneer Park.
As an urban revitalization project designed for the City of El Paso, the project’s sustainability is inherent to its success as a device that encourages pedestrian mobility and use of transit connections over the automobile. The materiality of the architectural insertions in the project was selected for their durability for a long lifespan. The project reinforces pedestrian traffic by its nature: users are more likely to walk this area than drive it, thus reducing the carbon footprint of its users. To sustainably encourage walkability, additional street trees were distributed along the length of the street. The project engaged community shareholders through a public dialogue process that included City staff, elected officials, religious organizations, and property and business owners. Through this process, a streetscape was designed that serves all the people using the space such as local residents, cross-border commuters, students, and tourists from both sides of the borders.