El Paso’s Alternate Universe

Every week, there’s a surprising new story in the El Paso Inc.

This week the frontpage story is headlined Montecillo reveals plans for resort:

EPT Land Communities, the developer behind the Montecillo urban village, has unveiled plans for a Marriott hotel and resort.

The four-acre resort would be located in Montecillo, the 300-acre Westside development where El Paso’s first Top Golf location is under construction and Alamo Drafthouse Cinema opened last year.

Curious use of the conditional tense, there, no? “. . . would be located”? Maybe because the resort is dependent on the developers getting additional tax incentives? We’ll reserve judgement on that aspect of the project.

“This is not pie-in-the-sky; these are done plans,” [David Bogas, director of development at EPT Land Communities], says.

Construction for the project is set to begin in six months.

The resort would include a Marriott hotel, three restaurants, resident clubhouse and event facility. It would also have a pool with a “lazy river,” water slide and splash pads.

Bogas says he has been laughed at by people who are skeptical that the El Paso economy can support a resort. But, he adds, “We have some owners who think outside the box.”

El Paso is increasingly obsessed with consumption, and we’re not alone. Here’s a story from Fast Company that examines, a little bit, our desire for conspicuous wealth, and its roots and consequences.

One of the trends [photographer Lauren Greenfield] documents [in her book Generation Wealth] is the new twist on enviously peering over the hedge at the neighbor’s house. “People used to compare themselves to their neighbor down the road, who maybe had a slightly bigger car or closet,” she says. “But with the rise of reality TV and the affluent lifestyles dominating what we see on television–and with people watching so much of it–we’re actually more influenced by these shows than by our neighbors, and we spend more time with them. What we’re seeing is that people are no longer looking to buy a home in a neighborhood because their family or friends or church is there; instead, they’re looking to move into the biggest house they can afford. So what they have in common with their neighbors is mainly their ability to borrow.” It is, she says, a breakdown of traditional community through real estate, in which “people are more interested in keeping up with the Kardashians than with the Joneses.”

. . .

In one of the chapters in Generation Wealth, titled the “The Princess Brand,” Greenfield captures the ways in which girls’ traditional rites of passage have been transformed into highly profitable consumer rituals. As she points out, few do this better than Disney. “I made this picture of Christina in 2013 at Disney World,” says Greenfield. “She’s a pharmacy technician in Walmart, and her husband proposed to her [at Disney World] in what she called a ‘dream come true moment,’ which included dinner in the castle and the ring in Cinderella’s slipper. The wedding was also at Disney World, and included a ride in a glass carriage.” At Disney World’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Greenfield photographed little girls whose parents pay $200 to have their child transformed into a princess, with makeup, hair, and fairy dust. “While their brothers are running around and going on rides,” says Greenfield, “the girls are stuck in a chair focusing on their appearance. Their day ends in photograph: an image instead of an experience.”

El Paso suffers from an inferiority complex because we don’t have all the glitzy Disneyland stuff that other cities have. As a result, El Paso has more municipal debt per capita than any other city with a population over 500,000 in Texas, despite being the city with the second lowest per capita income among cities with a population over 500,000 in the United States. (We edged out McAllen.)

The real estate speculators, and their elected puppets, preyed on your insecurities and your Disneyland fantasies, and now we can’t even keep the potholes filled.

Moët Hennessy photo from the Financial Times (From the Moët Hennessy Portfolio) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

One comment

  1. El Paso’s economic development strategy should focus solely on workforce and skills development: in other words, improve the skill-set of the labor force so that it can import products and services outside of the region. This brings money into the local economy and can increase the tax base, thus lowering overall taxes.

    These entertainment amenities, while nice, won’t make El Paso resilient to recessions and economic downturns. Much of the QOL bonds could have been spent immediately on education.

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