El Paso-based Hunt Companies and WestStar Bank have teamed up to build a 14-story, $70 million office tower in Downtown El Paso.
On Tuesday, City Council approved an incentives package worth up to $15.2 million for the project. The office building will be called the WestStar Tower.
“We are excited to be closer to the start of the construction phase of a state-of-the-art class ‘A’ office building in Downtown El Paso,” said Rick Francis, chairman and CEO of WestStar Bank.
Executives hope to open the tower in late 2019 or early 2020.
Jessica Herrera, director of the city Economic and International Development Department, said the project would boost Downtown redevelopment efforts.
“Along with the Marriott Courtyard, it’s one of the first high-rise buildings built in some time. And it adds to the overall Downtown employee base.” Herrera said. “You’re creating a catalyst to Downtown that can be easily seen from the freeway.”
WestStar bank plans to move its headquarters to the new tower, selling its current headquarters at 500 N. Mesa, Francis said. It would occupy three floors of the tower, have a commercial bank operation on the ground floor and employ 180 people at the new location.
Hunt Companies would also move in, said Josh Hunt, the company’s executive vice president. It would occupy three floors of the tower, bringing 175 employees to Downtown.
Hunt Companies has built high rises, research buildings and apartment towers across the country. The El Paso-based company and its affiliates employ more than 6,000 people and touch more than $30 billion in assets.
Hunt Companies bought the city block at 601 N. Mesa in 2014. A building on the property, which housed a BBVA Compass Bank branch and Lone Star Title office, was demolished in May 2015. The property was paved and has been a parking lot since.
The block overlooks Interstate 10, where it dips underneath North Mesa. It is also immediately west of the block where the five-story Artspace building is located.
For years a sign has stood on the property with an artist’s rendering of what the building could look like – a modern glass-covered structure with a rooftop patio.
Early on, executives said they were doing market studies to determine demand for office space in Downtown and the results would determine how high the building would ultimately go.
Executives now say they believe the market can support a 14-story building. By comparison the landmark Bassett Tower in Downtown is 15-stories.
The plans for the building include 600 parking spaces, 200,000-square-feet of office and retail space, and park-like green space, according to a city document.
“Our goal is to make it the same quality as the Mills Building,” Francis said, referring to the historic Downtown office building restored by El Paso businessman Paul Foster.
“This is fantastic news,” Mayor Dee Margo said in a statement. “The energy and excitement surrounding this new high-rise development in Downtown El Paso is a welcomed addition to our collective community efforts to continue to make the center of our city an inviting and vibrant place.”