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Revisiting Plan El Paso With a Critical Eye

The critically lauded Plan El Paso hasn’t yet spurred the kind of urban revitalization it was designed to achieve. Some say its evidence that people still want sprawl, other say changes are still coming.
January 30, 2016, 7am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Alana Samuels takes a deep look at El Paso's current state, after years of progressive planning initiatives and political controversies have moved the direction of the city between conflicting visions.

First Samuels notes the award-winning pedigree of the city's planning efforts over the course of the decade: "The National Resources Defense Council has said that El Paso has 'America’s Best Smart Growth Plan' and—perhaps more surprisingly—in 2011 the city won a Smart Growth award for its Plan El Paso, a 800-plus page comprehensive plan that aimed to make the city more compact, walkable, and transit-friendly."

Despite all the awards, Samuels takes a critical look at the results of the 2012 Plan El Paso that attracted all the attention, noting a very slow adoption of the densisity and mixed-use focus of the goals set forth by the plan, while sprawling developments continue on the periphery of the city. El Paso's reluctance to adopt more urban principals, according to Samuels, raises the question: "Does El Paso, or indeed, the Southwest, really want to make a shift to more walkable neighborhoods and apartment-style buildings?"

Samuels details the political debate and planning initiatives that preceded the adoption of Plan El Paso, in addition to the political fallout for some of the plan's lead proponents. Sameuls also details the projects that have developed in the city since the adoption of the plan, as well as the plan's many visions that are still unfulfilled.

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Published on Thursday, January 28, 2016 in The Atlantic
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