Construction has begun on a new Chili’s Grill & Bar at Bagby Avenue and South Valley Mills Drive, where University High School was leveled to make room for a development anchored by the Gander Mountain outdoors store.

The future of the Chili’s location in Parkdale Shopping Center at North Valley Mills Drive and Bosque Boulevard remains unsettled. Local real estate agent Pat Farrar, who markets Parkdale, said officials with Chili’s have said they won’t begin seriously weighing the pros and cons of running two local restaurants or one until early next year.

Chili’s, known for its burgers, salads and Tex-Mex menu items, secured a permit valued at $1.25 million to build a 6,000-square-foot store in South Waco, where Dallas-based Leon Capital continues to develop the former University High site.

The chain’s lease in Parkdale, meanwhile, expires in about two years, according to sources.

Will Tolliver, a spokesman for Leon Capital, said construction of the new Chili’s should last “a few months, though we do not have a definite timetable.” Farrar said he thinks the new restaurant will open in spring of 2016.

On Tuesday, a Zoës Kitchen will open adjacent to the site being developed for Chili’s at Bagby Avenue and South Valley Mills Drive. The Dallas-based chain serves Mediterranean-inspired dishes that include salads, chicken or salmon kabobs, steak rollups and hummus. It also offers a variety of gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options.

“We are thrilled to become a part of the Waco community and expand our presence in Texas,” Jeff McGrory, regional operator of Zoës Kitchen, said in a prepared statement.

“At Zoës, our mission is to deliver goodness from the inside out. We provide nutritious, high-quality, made-from-scratch meals to our guests and deliver them with genuine Southern hospitality and attentive service.”

He said customers can dine in or pick up orders to go. Zoës also caters.

To celebrate the opening, Zoës Kitchen is giving away 500 entrees at its new location, and patrons have a chance to win a grand prize of free Zoës for a year at the new restaurant. The contest runs through Tuesday, and anyone interested in registering can visit the Zoës Kitchen Facebook page at to enter to win.

Adjacent to Zoës, land is being cleared for yet another building that will have retail tenants, Williford said.

Other occupants of the development site include Starbucks, a sports bar called Bubba’s 33 and Potbelly Sandwich Works.

An $8 million Home2 Suites by Hilton is under construction on the site, located right across Valley Mills Drive from Waco’s newest H-E-B, a 121,000-square-foot regional store meant to serve South Waco, Baylor University and Interstate 35 traffic.

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