Take a look at the area along Sunland Park Drive in Sunland Park, N.M., where a housing/retail development is proposed by West Retail.
Vic Kolenc/El Paso Times
Jose Gonzalez proposing 3 major retail projects in El Paso area
El Paso developer Jose Gonzalez, who in recent months has announced plans for two major retail developments on each side of the city, is now touting a third project in Sunland Park, N.M.
“We are developers. If we don’t develop, we are out of a job,” Gonzalez, who operates West Retail, a fledgling El Paso company, told the Sunland Park City Council at a recent meeting where he gave a few details about his proposed Western Fever Village retail development project.
Gonzalez moved back to El Paso, his hometown, from Houston where he had a string of lawsuits filed against him and several of his companies, alleging breach of contracts or fraud in real estate deals, and a failed oil-lease deal.
The proposed $47 million Sunland Park development would include a 60,000 square-foot shopping center, 202-home subdivision, and a possible hotel, according to information Gonzalez gave to the Sunland Park City Council.
Homes in the subdivision would be priced from $225,000 to $275,000, Gonzalez reported. That’s well above Sunland Park’s median, or market midpoint, home value of $92,500, according to U.S. Census data.
The site is at Sunland Park and Gibson Veck drives, across the street from the State Line barbecue restaurant. It’s just down Sunland Park Drive from the Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino, and a recently opened 78-room hotel.
Gonzalez told the City Council that his investment group, Legacy at Cristo Rey Partners, recently bought the almost 38-acre site in Sunland Park for the project. Gonzalez has majority ownership of that company, and George Rodriguez and Karla Y. Gonzalez have minority ownership, according to a filing with the Texas secretary of state’s office.
A West Retail sign advertising retail space for lease stands on the vacant property.
No such signs were on West Retail’s two other proposed shopping center sites in El Paso as of the end of August.
The three proposed projects would be the first retail developments done by West Retail.
The entrance to Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino is near an El Paso developer’s proposed $47 million retail/housing development. A recently opened, 78-room hotel is in the background. (Photo: VIC KOLENC/EL PASO TIMES PHOTO)
Sunland Park Mayor Javier Perea said he recently became aware of the lawsuits filed against Gonzalez in Houston.
That includes an $11.3 million court judgment against one of Gonzalez’s now-defunct companies, Royal Blue Energy, in a failed oil-lease deal. Gonzalez’s company was accused of fraud by BHP Billiton.
Gonzalez and his companies in court documents have denied accusations made in that and other lawsuits filed in state courts in Houston. In late July, he told the El Paso Times that the lawsuits are frivolous.
Perea said the lawsuits don’t prevent Gonzalez from pursuing his Sunland Park development.
“If he is the owner of the property, he has the right to develop the property” following the laws of Sunland Park and the state of New Mexico, Perea said.
“This is something that would be attractive, and it would be good for our community,” he said.
Sunland Park is a community of more than 16,000 people on the edge of El Paso’s West Side.
Perea said he met Gonzalez about a year ago when former City Manager Bob Gallagher introduced him. That’s when the idea of the proposed project was pitched.
Gallagher was suddenly fired by the City Council, without explanation, at an Aug. 15 meeting where Gonzalez gave the council details about his proposed development.
Perea said he expects West Retail to seek tax subsidies from Sunland Park for the proposed Western Fever Village.
“We’ll need to do an impact analysis” of the project before any decisions would be made on granting tax incentives, the mayor said.
Gonzalez has applied for city of El Paso tax subsidies for his proposed, 112-acre Franklin Galleria shopping center at Trans Mountain Road and Interstate 10.
He’s also said he likely would seek tax incentives for West Retail’s proposed, 240-acre Plaza del Rey project at I-10 and Americas Avenue in East El Paso.
Both of those projects are to begin with the construction of two, proposed Cinergy Entertainment Group cinema/game complexes. Officials with Dallas-based Cinergy earlier this year announced plans to put entertainment complexes in both of West Retail’s proposed developments.
So far, no construction has begun at either site.
Jeff Benson, Cinergy co-owner and chief executive officer, told the El Paso Times in late July that his company and West Retail are “proceeding toward two groundbreakings this fall.” He expected both complexes to open by fall 2018, he said.
Vic Kolenc may be reached at 546-6421; firstname.lastname@example.org;@vickolenc on Twitter.
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