A new apartment complex has attracted the attention of Baylor University alumni in search of a “crash pad” to stay in while visiting their alma mater, offering further evidence of downtown Waco’s strength and potential, local development officials said.

The complex, called 222 Clay Court, a 12-unit gated community, will be completed by July and ready for moving in by next school year, said Ed Kinkeade, owner of the complex and manager of Clay Street LLC. Kinkeade is a federal judge in Dallas.

But Kinkeade said he already is hearing from potential tenants, who are not from the demographic he expected.

“There’s a demand for it. I don’t even have a sign or anything and people have said, ‘Save me one,’ ” he said. “And, interestingly enough, these won’t be undergraduate students, I don’t think. I’ve had several graduate students, but primarily people my age who want a place in Waco (have inquired).”

Clay Court is one of several new downtown developments that have arisen in the past five years, said Chris McGowan, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce’s director of urban development.

McGowan said 1,200 housing units have been built, with 500 more under construction. And there are few vacancies, with the new developments boasting a 98 percent occupancy rate, he said.

“The exciting thing about this project is it’s replacing virtually nothing,” said Megan Henderson, director of the Downtown Development Corp.

The complex will replace a dilapidated, vacant house and an empty lot directly behind Hotel Indigo on Clay Avenue.

Vibrant downtown

Henderson said visitors coming to Waco as a destination are an exciting new byproduct of a healthy, vibrant downtown, and she expects both residential and commercial investments to be made in the future.

“First of all, having Waco being a destination for people to come and spend their weekends — that’s new, that’s good, that’s beyond what we had before,” she said.

Kinkeade said he bought the land as part of a longtime goal to invest in Waco and decided to take this opportunity to bring residential housing to downtown.

Kinkeade is a Baylor alum, graduating in 1974 from Baylor Law School, and said he has season tickets to every sport the school plays.

He said he refurbished aged buildings in his hometown, Irving, but most of Waco’s older real estate already had been bought for development, so he decided to try a new construction project.

“This is my first new construction, so it’s a different kind of problem,” he said. “When you go into an old building, you never know, maybe alligators are going to fall out of the ceiling.”

The apartments will be two buildings three stories tall with a center courtyard and surrounding fence. There will be 10 one-bedroom apartments and two two-bedroom apartments.

The apartments will range from 800 square feet to 1,200 square feet, and rent will range from $1,000 to $1,400 per month.

Kinkeade said he has been surprised by who has shown interest in renting, but is enjoying the design and construction part and looks forward to seeing it occupied.

“When you get to be my age, you would like to be near young people and be near their educational opportunities,” he said. “And to be able to walk — we can still walk — to downtown restaurants and all those other shopping amenities that area provides (makes the location attractive).”

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