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Michael Bincale  

Texas Tech Baylor Basketball

Texas Tech Lady Raiders guard McKenzie Calvert (13) defends against Baylor Bears guard Alexis Morris (11) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday , Dec. 31, 2017, in Waco, Texas.


Nonprofits
Rapoport Foundation grant will enable resurrection of historic 'La Pila' fountain

A project to excavate and preserve a century-old fountain that once served the now-vanished Calle Dos neighborhood is back on track with help of a local charitable foundation.

The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation this month awarded $25,000 toward archaeological work and improvements that could help turn the buried “La Pila” fountain into a historic attraction, possibly with a historic marker.

The Waco Hispanic Museum last year used a $2,500 grant to begin the archaeological work, but the money ran out before work could be completed. The new grant will allow that work to continue starting in February. Museum officials also hope to use the grant to create sidewalks, benches, fencing and interpretive material that could tell the story of the fountain and the Hispanic neighborhood that was razed during Urban Renewal.

“We felt this was really important for the Waco community, specifically for the great history of the Latino community,” said Tom Stanton, executive director of the Rapoport Foundation. “Generally, we all tend to forget the past and history, not only specific individuals that were key and critical members of organizations, but also communities.”

He said he hoped that the meticulous archaeological work would lay the foundation for a Texas historical marker for the fountain and the vanished neighborhood.

Katherine Turner-Pearson, the archaeologist who is supervising the project on a pro bono basis, agreed that the site is a good candidate for such a marker.

“I think we have a very good chance of it,” she said. “I would try to get it for the whole neighborhood. … There’s no doubt in my mind that this one is deserving of a marker, and I don’t think you could do it without discussing the neighborhood.”

From archived news articles, it appears the city of Waco constructed La Pila and two other fountains along the Brazos River in the course of digging water supply wells more than 100 years ago. Soon afterward, a Hispanic neighborhood grew up around Second Street, also known as Calle Dos, and the fountain became a social hub and a place for washing and bathing.

Turner said the analysis of the excavated artifacts and the final report could take several years. She said the clock is ticking on the state antiquities permit she took out for the dig, so she is grateful to the Rapoport Foundation for getting it off high center.

“I think it’s phenomenal,” she said. “I’m really excited that someone stepped up to help them. I was worried about how it was going to get done.”


Business
spotlight
Business outlook bright
How will the Waco economy perform in 2018?

The future looks so bright for Greater Waco, builders, bankers, economists and real estate agents may have to wear shades in 2018.

True, the number of people employed locally has declined in recent months, says the Texas Workforce Commission, but those figures could change — either due to a TWC recalculation or because Waco ranks “in the top two or three” on the lists of several industrial prospects pursuing sites.

Nail guns, power saws and those who use them should get a workout next year, as progress continues on the 1,500-lot Park Meadows subdivision off Ritchie Road, and work ramps up on Creekside, a 750-home project near West Warren Street and Ritchie Road that will involve a handful of local builders, including veterans Fred Dewald and Richard Clark.

“Then there is Callan Village, planned along Ritchie Road between Panther Way and Chapel Road and offering 475 lots, I believe,” said Clint Peters, Waco’s planning director. “And Ken Cooper, who developed Hidden Valley, wants to build west of McGregor Airport. He’s in preliminary design.”

“Build-out will take place in several existing subdivisions, including Hidden Valley, Twin Rivers and Sun West, all of which have been around a long time,” said Peters. “Our hottest areas remain China Spring, the Highway 84 corridor and Ritchie Road. A lot of building is going on out there.”

The inventory is sorely needed, said Camille Johnson, a 32-year veteran of the residential real estate scene who specializes in upscale properties.

“This was my best year ever. I’ve had some good ones, but this was my best by far. A lot of agents probably feel the same way. We just need more houses, more affordable housing,” Johnson said. “Take homes in the $150,000 to $350,000 range. There is not much supply at all. If a property is priced right, it will sell immediately. I recently listed a home just off Lake Air Drive, asking $209,900. I had 24 showings in two days, and multiple offers. It was like the Keystone Cops, so much coming and going.”

Johnson said Multiple Listing Service recorded 5,956 residential-related transactions locally through mid-December, with a value of $1.46 billion.

Some agents say they know of homes selling so rapidly they never appear on the MLS listing, meaning the tally could be greater.

“I think that is amazing, and I don’t see much changing in 2018,” Johnson said. “The local economy is good, jobs are stable. Waco is becoming a cool place to live. Professionals are relocating to this area, out-of-town investors are looking, and young couples are moving up or moving around, some of them buying their first home.”

Waco-based economist Ray Perryman, who has a national reputation, has said Waco is “the next great city in Texas.” He responded to a request for comment with an email, stating, “I think that Waco definitely has a great opportunity to emerge as a major growth center in the future.”

He said an analysis by The Perryman Group focused on infrastructure improvements by the city of Waco, “which clearly provide the capacity to sustain future expansion.” He said the city stands to gain residents wanting to escape the explosive growth and congestion now found in its larger neighbors on Interstate 35, Dallas/Fort Worth and Austin.

Perryman said downtown and riverfront development, as well as “tourism engendered by the Magnolia complex,” is creating more opportunities.

Combine Baylor University, McLennan Community College and Texas State Technical College “with a growing national profile,” and Waco has potential for job growth “that has not been fully exploited,” Perryman said.

Realtor Gregg Glime, a commercial and industrial specialist, said he is working with two industrial clients considering placing new plants in Waco, and with at least one local prospect wanting to expand.

“One would create 200 jobs almost immediately, another, about 200 jobs long-term,” said Glime, speaking by phone. “Commercial remains strong, and all indicators are pointing in the right direction. Tax reform, I’m hearing positive response to that, and we have a lot of rooftops on the way. We have enough development in the pipeline to stay positive.”

Glime said he represents a group of local investors planning to take advantage of Greater Waco’s momentum by placing an 80,000-square-foot mixed-use development at U.S. Highway 84 and Ritchie Road that would include restaurants, office/condominium space, an amphitheater, ponds and a walking area. Called The Outlook at Bosque Ridge, it would target homeowners flocking to the area, Glime said.

Meanwhile, Glime said the proposed Jackson Station planned at Eighth Street and Jackson Avenue has reached the city permitting stage. Work will begin in 2018 to create space there for a microbrewery and a “destination-style” restaurant, and Glime has begun preparing a list of names.

“I’m also working with a full-service hotel interested in a 4-to-5-acre site downtown. This is one that has not gone public with its intentions,” said Glime, who mentioned that progress continues on developer Shane Turner’s Union Hall food court taking shape at Eight Street and Franklin Avenue, and Mary Avenue Market “is doing really well.”

In Waco’s industrial district, Allergan, a pharmaceutical giant that makes eyecare products locally, should begin construction in 2018 on a 322,000-square-foot, $200 million expansion that would add 100 jobs immediately and an estimated 300 more when production peaks.

Real estate agent Jim Peevey, also a commercial specialist, said his pipeline and that of his colleagues at The Reid-Peevey Company includes “retailers, office space, multi-family development and land sales.”

“One component this market does not have is a big entertainment complex,” Peevey said, adding that may change as fellow agent Pat Farrar is marketing a 34-acre site near Interstate 35 and Sun Valley Boulevard that could prove ideal for a “movie-house concept.”

Mark Reynolds, a regional president for Extraco Banks and chairman of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, said the community is aware it needs to keep young talent in Waco, that it must curtail the brain drain of the best and brightest leaving the city for Dallas and Austin.

To that end, he said, local stakeholders are planning to unveil “Start-Up Waco,” with the goal of providing training, mentoring and venture capital funding to those wanting to pursue their dreams locally.

“This will take a collective effort that involves business, education, government and foundations,” said Reynolds in a phone interview. “We hope to build our own entrepreneurial eco-system, and we plan to begin making announcements shortly after the first of the year.”

The bottom line, said Reynolds, is creating jobs and generating tax revenue to support a community that will double in size by 2040.

American Bank president David Hicks said he predicts “a reasonably good economic year in Waco in 2018,” but he does have concerns.

He sees the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, but not much, and he wonders how business growth and the construction industry will react, “since they’ve operated in a low-interest-rate environment for so long.”

Housing and construction costs have risen 20 to 25 percent over three years, in part due to the surging price of materials, a situation Hicks described as “beyond ridiculous, in some cases.”

He said the double whammy of higher prices and interest rates “may prevent buyers from acquiring the home they want.”

“Guys in construction already are complaining about cost overruns, the price-per-foot going up,” Hicks added. “That being said, Waco is still more affordable than many parts of the country.”


Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte  

More construction at Legends Crossing.


Politics
2 protesters in Iran killed as social media apps blocked

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran on Sunday blocked access to Instagram and a popular messaging app used by activists to organize and publicize the protests now roiling the Islamic Republic, as authorities said two demonstrators had been killed overnight in the first deaths attributed to the rallies.

The demonstrations, which began Thursday over the economic woes plaguing Iran and continued Sunday, appear to be the largest to strike the Islamic Republic since the protests that followed the country’s disputed 2009 presidential election.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also broke his silence on the demonstrations in a speech aired Sunday night, saying that people had the right to protest though the public should not be made to “feel concerned about their lives and security.”

They were fanned in part by messages sent on the Telegram messaging app, which authorities blocked Sunday along with the photo-sharing app Instagram, which is owned by tech giant Facebook.

Many in Iran are learning about the protests and sharing images of them through Telegram, a mobile phone messaging app popular among the country’s 80 million people. On Saturday, Telegram shut down one channel on the service over Iranian allegations it encouraged violence, something its moderator denied.

On Sunday, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov wrote on Twitter that authorities had blocked access to the app.

“Iranian authorities are blocking access to Telegram for the majority of Iranians after our public refusal to shut down ... peacefully protesting channels,” he wrote.

Iran’s state TV news website, iribnews.ir, quoted an anonymous source saying that social media in Iran would be temporarily limited as a safety measure.

“With a decision by the Supreme National Security Council, activities of Telegram and Instagram are temporarily limited,” the report said, without elaborating.

Facebook, based in Menlo Park, California, declined to comment.

Facebook itself has been banned in Iran since protests against the disputed 2009 re-election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, some in Iran access it and other banned websites using virtual private networks.

Meanwhile, authorities acknowledged the first fatalities in the protests in Doroud, a city some 325 kilometers (200 miles) southwest of Tehran in Iran’s western Lorestan province. Protesters had gathered for an unauthorized rally that lasted into the night Saturday, said Habibollah Khojastepour, the security deputy of Lorestan’s governor. The two protesters were killed in clashes at the rally, he said.

“The gathering was to be ended peacefully, but due to the presence of the (agitators), unfortunately, this happened,” Khojastepour said.


Associated Press — Kin Cheung  

Fireworks over the Victoria Harbor during New Year’s Eve celebrating the start of year 2018 in Hong Kong.


Politics
Revelers around the world ring in 2018, say bye to the old

From spectacular fireworks in Hong Kong and Australia to a huge LED lightshow at the world’s tallest building in Dubai, a look at how revelers around the world are ringing in 2018:

California

The Golden State will go green when the calendar turns to 2018.

Starting at midnight, California joins the growing list of states to legalize recreational marijuana.

The moment is a significant, but small step that will not be met with a non-stop pot party.

California has allowed medical marijuana for more than a decade, and the state is generally tolerant of the drug, so major changes are not expected as the laws are further eased. At least not on New Year’s Day.

More than 70 outlets received licenses to sell in time for Jan. 1. None of those outlets are holding midnight openings, but some in San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area will be open for business starting at 6 a.m.

Some cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, will have to wait at least until later in the week before licensed outlets start selling there.

United Arab Emirates

Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, has again served as the focal point of New Year’s Eve celebrations — though this year authorities decided against fireworks and chose a massive LED lightshow on the structure.

That was in part due to safety in the city-state in the United Arab Emirates, which saw a massive skyscraper fire on New Year’s Eve in 2015.

The display, running down the east side of the 2,716-foot tower, showed Arabic calligraphy, geometric designs and a portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s first president.

But a display of neighboring nations’ flags didn’t show Qatar’s flag. The UAE joined Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in boycotting the tiny energy-rich nation in June over allegations Doha supports extremists and has too close ties to Iran. Qatar, which will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, denies supporting extremists and shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Tehran.

France

Tens of thousands of Parisians and tourists were heading to the Champs-Elysees to attend a firework show at Napoleon’s Arc de Triomphe monument, at the end of the famous avenue with its lines of trees sparkling with lights.

Officials have warned the display might be cancelled at the last minute due to a storm expected to hit France overnight.

New Year’s Eve celebrations were placed under high security in France, which has been hit by a series of attacks by Islamic extremists in recent years.

French Interior ministry said 100,000 police officers and soldiers and 40,000 rescuers have been deployed across the country — including 2,500 on the Champs-Elysees.

Vatican

Bidding 2017 farewell, Pope Francis has decried wars, injustices and environmental decay which he says have “ruined” the year.

Francis on Sunday presided at a New Year’s Eve prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica, a traditional occasion to say thanks in each year’s last hours.

He says God gave to us a 2017 “whole and sound,” but that “we humans in many ways ruined and hurt it with works of death, lies and injustices.”

But, he added, “gratitude prevails” thanks to those “cooperating silently for the common good.”

In keeping with past practice, the pope on New Year’s Day will celebrate Mass dedicated to the theme of world peace.

Australia

Fireworks lit up the sky above Sydney Harbor, highlighting the city’s New Year’s celebrations.

The massive fireworks display included a rainbow waterfall cascade of lights and color flowing off the harbor’s bridge to celebrate recently passed legislation legalizing gay marriage in Australia.

Over a million people were expected to gather to watch the festivities. Security was tight, but officials said there was no particular alert.

Sydney officials said the event would generate some $170 million for the city and “priceless publicity.” Nearly half the revelers were tourists.

New Zealand

Tens of thousands of New Zealanders took to streets and beaches, becoming among the first in the world to usher in 2018.

As the new year dawned , fireworks boomed and crackled above city centers and harbors, and party-goers sang, hugged, danced and kissed.

In Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, tens of thousands gathered around Sky Tower as five minutes of nonstop pyrotechnics exploded from the top of the structure.


Weaponry
5 Colorado deputies shot, 1 fatally, in 'ambush' attack

DENVER — A man fired more than 100 rounds at sheriff’s deputies in Colorado early Sunday, killing one and injuring four others, before being fatally shot himself in what authorities called an ambush. Two civilians were also injured.

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said deputies came under fire almost immediately after entering a suburban Denver apartment and trying to talk with the suspect, who was holed up inside a bedroom.

“I do know that all of them were shot very, very quickly. They all went down almost within seconds of each other, so it was more of an ambush-type of attack on our officers,” Spurlock said. “He knew we were coming and we obviously let him know that we were there.”

The wounded deputies tried to pull the fallen officer, identified as Zack Parrish, out of the line of further gunfire but were unable to because of their own injuries and only managed to “crawl to safety,” Spurlock said.

The incident occurred around 5:15 a.m. at Copper Canyon Apartments, a landscaped apartment complex in Highland Ranch, 16 miles south of Denver. Authorities had left the home about four hours earlier to address a noise complaint but returned in response to reports of a disturbance at the home.

There were two men inside the home when deputies arrived and someone let them inside, Spurlock said. He said the disturbance was initially reported to be domestic but turned out to be noise-related.

“The suspect was just making a ton of noise and annoying everyone around him,” Spurlock said.

Resident Steven Silknitter, 50, told The Denver Post that he heard 15 to 20 shots.

“It was back and forth — unbelievable,” said Silknitter, who lived in the Denver suburb of Aurora during a 2012 movie theater shooting that left 12 dead. “Where do you move to?” he said, shaking his head in exasperation. “It’s everywhere.”

The suspect was well-known to authorities in the Denver area but had no criminal record, said Spurlock, who declined to name him until his identity was confirmed.

The sheriff did not release any details about the weapons and ammunition used except to say the suspect had a rifle.

Parrish, the slain officer, was 29 and a married father of two young children. He had been with the department for about seven months. Spurlock called him a “good kid” who was eager to work.

“His wife told me today that he loved this job more than he had loved any job he ever had,” the sheriff said.

The four injured officers, who range in age from 28 to 41, were in stable condition, and the two civilian injuries were not life-threatening.

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said his son, Douglas County sheriff’s deputy Jeff Pelle, underwent surgery from injuries suffered in the attack and was recovering.

President Donald Trump expressed sorrow, writing on Twitter, “My deepest condolences to the victims of the terrible shooting in Douglas County @dcsheriff, and their families. We love our police and law enforcement — God Bless them all!”

The shooting occurred on the final day of a year that saw the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history in Las Vegas.