El Paso Master Plan Meeting December 18

Arkansas Tech University and the City of Russellville will host an open community forum concerning the master plan for the revitalization of North El Paso Avenue on Monday, Dec. 18.

The meeting, which will be open to the public, will begin at 6:45 p.m. in Russellville City Hall at 203 S. Commerce Ave. It will take place immediately following a regularly scheduled Russellville Planning Commission meeting.

The El Paso corridor and surrounding neighborhoods between Russellville Downtown and the ATU campus were identified as a special planning district within the Russellville Downtown Master Plan that was adopted by the Russellville City Council in 2013. The plan for North El Paso Avenue was approved by the Russellville Planning Commission in September 2017.

The El Paso Master Plan was developed by architecture firm Miller, Boskus and Lack of Fayetteville, urban planning and design firm Gateway Planning of Dallas, Texas, and experience design and development firm Velocity Group of Bentonville.

Roger Boskus of Miller, Boskus and Lack noted that city government has already delivered on important preliminary steps supporting the El Paso Master Plan, including reinvestment in public infrastructure along the corridor, future improvement commitments for Prairie Creek and other investments throughout the downtown district.

“The El Paso Master Plan serves as an extension of that commitment by focusing on integrating the needs of a growing university with the surrounding neighborhood and providing guidance for future development between the ATU campus and the downtown district,” said Boskus. “The plan’s core elements include setting parameters for ensuring predictable and intentional future growth; allowing a mix of intimate public spaces in the form of pocket green spaces, small plazas, trail systems and public art installations; and facilitating a compact building form that positively frames the surrounding existing neighborhoods and allows for a graceful transition into the vision over time. This plan guides future development, so existing structures and their uses will not be affected by the changes.”

Connecting the street grid within the district, enhancing safety for pedestrians through shorter average block lengths, placing utilities underground, creating more on-street parking and the continuation of sidewalk development are also included in the El Paso Master Plan.
In addition, the plan integrates ongoing efforts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Russellville to address storm water and flood management along Prairie Creek.

“Though not a silver bullet, zoning can also play a major role in catalyzing development and ensuring Russellville’s unique character is implemented between ATU and Russellville Downtown,” said Boskus. “The zoning recommendations within the plan correspond with the Russellville Downtown Master Plan recommendations that zoning must be updated and includes the creation of zoning districts focused on the development outcomes within the corridor and the neighborhoods surrounding El Paso.”

The North El Paso planning process began in late 2016 with stakeholder interviews and collaborative meetings with Main Street Russellville to ensure proper coordination with downtown business owners. Community ideas were shared through www.experienceelpaso.com and pop-up events gave planners and community members a vision of how the area could be developed.

Overall, the community outreach process collected more than 700 comments and reached more than 127,000 social media accounts.

Representatives from ATU, the City of Russellville, Miller, Boskus and Lack, Gateway Planning and Velocity Group will be available to answer questions during the Dec. 18 meeting.

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