October 18, 1966
By MARSHALL HAILEl Paso as a whole can expect a substantial increase in retail sales volume during the next 20 years, but downtown El Paso presorts a different picture.
Between now and 1970 the rate of growth in sales volume downtown will be "well below" the rate of increase for the entire city.
By 1985 downtown can expect a net loss in shoppers' goods volume of more than 10 per cent from the present—unless a "revitalization" program is undertaken in the immediate future.
THESE ARE AMONG conclusions reached by the Real Estate Research Corp. of Los
Angeles In its Community Economic Analysis prepared for the City.
If the economic vitality of a downtown is not maintained, the report warns, its deterioration will affect all portions of the community's economy. Although not offering a revitalization program as such, the report says concern ought to be given to the practical solution of such problems as:
1. Convenient access into downtown, which today is via an older street system of limited capacity which cannot be expected to handle adequately the increased traffic volumes forecast 10 and 20 years hence,
2. Improvement of the present pattern of circulation within the core of downtown, with respect to movement of both automobiles and pedestrians.
3. REDUCTION of the number of points within downtown where the automobile and the pedestrian are placed in direct competition with one another.
4. Major renovation or replacement of those physical improvements in downtown which are today deteriorating in quality and becoming functionally obsolescent,
5. Provision of adequate parking within downtown which is as convenient for the retail patron and client offered in new, modern shopping center developments in the suburbs,
6. Consideration of the creation of more open space within downtown to enhance the operational and aesthetic character of the central core, and thus make it distinctive as a place in which to work, shop, visit and spend leisure time.
REGARDING No. I, access to downtown, City Planning Department officials feel that the new freeway will not provide the access desired. They have been considering a proposed new route to encircle the central district.
No. 3 is an evident reference to El Paso's short downtown blocks and the large number of intersections, where people and cars tend to get in one another's way.
Unless there is a revitalization program, the report cautions the downtown retail core stands to lose $3 million annually in sales of shoppers goods alone by 1970, and at least $12.2 million annually by 1985.
DOWNTOWN retailers must adapt themselves to the city's shifting patterns, the report advises. Noting the growth of shopping centers, it says: "Downtown will have to cater more carefully to the specialized markets it can best serve within this newly emerging competitive pattern. In doing so it must upgrade both its physical appearance and its basic merchandising operation. Incidentally, such upgrading must be in response to the differing needs of both the El Paso and the Mexican market from across the border . . .
"The choice between a revitalization program and no revitalization action for downtown is a critical one for El Paso."
In all, Research Corp. devotes a 40-page chapter to analyzing many aspects of El Paso's retail economy. It finds that:
El Paso's trading area on the U.S. side contains 709,100 persons, and on both sides of the border, a total of 1,750,00. Patronage comes from distances up to 200 miles and farther.
TOTAL RETAIL sales in the city in 1965 were estimated at $374,435,000, compared with $353,445,000 in 1963, Downtown retail stiles were $110,591,000 in 1965, compared with $109,499,000 in 1963.
Excluded from these figures are retail sales of between $22,500.000 and $23,000,100 in military commissary aid exchange facilities.
Downtown El Paso is still in a strong competitive position, despite losses to outlying shopping centers, largely because it has attracted increased patronage from a growing population on the Mexican side.
In downtown, 63 per cent of shoppers' goods sales come from El Paso. Nearly 26 per cent come from Juarez residents while 4 per cent come from Mexico outside Juarez.
El Paso has an oversupply of food markets.
PER CAPITA retail sales in El Paso are lower than in other South western and Western cities. This reflects a lower family income in El Paso and Mexico.
El Paso's capture of the Juarez market will not automatically continue. Between 1970 and 1985 it is probable that competitive facilities developed on the Mexican side could reduce El Paso's share. The Chamizal settlement will give Mexico several hundred acres for development of such facilities.
Total retail sales in El Paso, which were $353,445,000 in 1965, should climb to $404,150.000 in 1970, and, assuming new competitive facilities located in Mexico. $561,600,000 in 1985.
Total retail space requirements will be somewhat less in 1970 than at present, due to the present oversupply of some retail stores that is expected to shrink. But by 1985 the total retail inventory can be increased by 1,765,000 square feet of space.
LITTLE if any net additions to the retailing inventory will be justified in downtown El Paso, the report predicts. "Downtown's new construction in retailing facilities between the present and 1985 will represent essentially a replacement market.
"It can be expected that significant, new shopping center developments will materialize in both Northwest El Paso and Southeast El Paso between now and 1985. Some additional growth can be anticipated in Northeast El Paso ... Other additions to the inventory can be anticipated at locations within Central El Paso which effectively can tap significant portions of the total metropolitan area."