EPCC Parking Garage Plans Spark Opposition

Some Sunset Heights residents are at odds with El Paso Community College over its plans for a seven-story building on the Rio Grande campus, just outside of the historic nieghborhood.

When the community college revealed the proposed building designs last month, members of the Sunset Heights Neighborhood Improvement Association, voiced their opposition to the design of the exterior.

“We told them, ‘God, can you come up with something else?’” said artist Hal Marcus, who lives in the Sunset Heights neighborhood.

El Paso Community College plans to spend more than $20 million to construct the building on the parking lot at the intersection of Rio Grande and Oregon streets. It would house a parking garage and classrooms, providing 400 parking spaces for the campus.

The project is part of EPCC’s $255 million campus transformation plan.

Marcus said the neighborhood association is not against all development in the area. The residents just want the building to compliment the surrounding Victorian-era architecture.

He said the first rendering the association was shown looked like the “county jail,” and there was an alternative option with red brick the association liked.

“They’re trying to say things are industrial, and the neighborhood says it’s residential,” Marcus said.

The building would be constructed just outside of the Sunset Heights Historic District.

There are several signs on the property indicating EPCC is applying for a special-development district zoning change. A spokesperson for EPCC said the college needs a zoning change so they can build up to seven stories.

EPCC president William Serrata said they are receptive to what the neighbors have to say.

“We want to be good neighbors,” Serrata said.

EPCC plans to use four floors of the building for parking. The upper floors would house classes, labs and workstations for students.

Serrata said construction should begin in late 2018 and finish before the end of 2019. The building would add 65,000-square-feet of classrooms space to the campus.

The EPCC board of trustees has not approved a final design for the building but is expected to select one by the end of the year.

EPCC also refers to its Rio Grande campus as the nursing and allied health campus, and Serrata said they want to invest in the location to prepare students for the growing health industry in El Paso.

“We need to provide and supply the region with a skilled workforce,” Serrata said. “We know health care is going to be an area to grow.”

In El Paso, there has been a boom in medical education with development at the nursing program at the University of Texas at El Paso and expansion of Texas Tech in Central El Paso.

The Hospitals of Providence opened a 106-bed teaching facility in Northwest El Paso earlier this year. And Las Palmas Medical Center is investing $63 million to expand the hospital at 1801 N. Oregon.

Email El Paso Inc. reporter Aaron Montes at amontes@elpasoinc.com or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 105 and (915) 777-4154 Twitter: @aaronmontes91

Source : http://www.elpasoinc.com/news/local_news/epcc-parking-garage-plans-spark-opposition/article_aead1536-c7cf-11e7-b6ef-57adca5bd9b6.html

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