Listen to Austin 360 Radio

El Paso hotel developer converts senior living facility into 151-unit apartment complex

Vic Kolenc
El Paso Times

An El Paso hotel development company has renovated a former El Paso senior assisted-living facility into a 151-unit apartment building as it diversifies its business.

Esperanto Developments, which operates several hotels in El Paso and other areas of Texas, has gone into apartment development because the hotel business has declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Punit Sheth, the company’s chief financial officer.

This is a good time to be in the apartment business because occupancy rates are high and the supply is limited, which is increasing rents, Sheth said recently at the newly renovated Alza Dwellings at 1831 Murchison Drive in Central El Paso.

The building's small apartments and ground-floor lounge areas provide hotel similarities.

The newly renovated, 151-unit Alza Dwellings apartment complex at 1831 Murchison Drive in Central El Paso.

The company is looking to meld a hotel-like amenity into the building by leasing its huge, commercial kitchen — leftover from the building's senior housing days — to a business that would make prep meals for tenants and customers beyond the apartments, Sheth said.

The company bought the large building atop a huge hill with rock formations in January 2020 for $6 million and spent about $10 million, and more than a year, renovating it, Sheth said.

More: Huge, vacant, El Paso public housing complexes in low-income neighborhoods set for renovations

Its tall perch provides panoramic views of parts of El Paso and Juárez, Mexico, from some apartments.

“This is our first big (apartment) project,”  Sheth said. Esperanto has others in the works.

Punit Sheth, chief financial officer for Esperanto Developments, an El Paso hotel developer branching into apartment development. He's at the company's newly renovated Azla Dwellings apartment complex in Central El Paso.

It plans to build a 112-unit apartment complex in the Austin area next year.

It also has tentative plans to begin renovation next year of the mostly vacant 300 E. Main office building in Downtown El Paso to make it an 80-unit apartment building. It’s next to Esperanto’s Hotel Indigo. That project, announced in early 2020, was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sheth said.

Alza Dwellings is located in an area known as Pill Hill because of the many medical facilities and medical office buildings there. It’s across the street from The Hospitals of Providence specialty surgery hospital and the El Paso Behavioral Health System psychiatric hospital. Providence’s Sierra hospital campus is nearby.

The proximity to medical facilities should help attract nurses as tenants, Sheth said. The apartments are suited for single professionals, Fort Bliss soldiers and students, he said.

Business in El Paso: El Paso family-owned Lube 'n Go sold to California company with expansion plans

The apartments are small: Thirty-six studio apartments with 408 square feet each; 105 one-bedroom apartments of 535 square feet each; and 10 two-bedroom apartments of 716 square feet each. They have hotel-like kitchenettes with a refrigerator, dishwasher, and tiny stove.

Inside a one-bedroom apartment, with a hotel-like kitchenette, in the newly renovated Alza Dwellings apartment complex in Central El Paso.

The recently opened building had 42 apartments leased by Nov. 3.

The demand for apartments led Esperanto to increase rents by about $100 for each of its units, Sheth said. Rents are $750 per month for a studio apartment, $950 for one bedroom, and $1,160 for a two-bedroom unit.

Development in El Paso: Young developers launch new firm with $35M apartment, retail complex in East El Paso

The building has an exercise room, small game room and lounge areas where tenants can relax, eat, and possibly work. It also has a 2,500 square-foot co-working area on the ground floor in which tenants can lease space. Construction of a small, outdoor pool is near completion.

"We wanted to get the social and communal aspects of the hotel/hospitality industry" in the apartment building, Sheth said.

Vic Kolenc may be reached at 546-6421; vkolenc@elpasotimes.com@vickolenc on Twitter.