The city’s call for proposals to redevelop the old Sanger School site has brought only one proposal, from a local entrepreneur who wants to build an indoor soccer facility there.
Benjamin Gonzalez, owner of Santana Tortilleria, said he and his wife, Molly, envision creating a youth indoor soccer league that would play in a 15,000-square-foot facility. Other sports could also use the facility, he said.
“We have always had a heart for sports,” Gonzalez said. “I noticed Waco needs an indoor soccer facility. We’ve been looking for a site for about a year, either an existing structure or a piece of land. This is appealing to me. It’s right in the center of the city with a lot of neighborhood around it with people who could use a sports facility.”
City purchasing officials said a panel of city staff will review the proposal in the next week and make a recommendation of whether to move forward with it.
Several nonprofit and for-profit developers showed up at an informational meeting when the city announced its “request for proposal” process for the 1700 block of Sanger Avenue, which once housed Sanger Avenue Elementary School.
City officials said they were open to ideas about the site but wanted something that would be an asset to the neighborhood and would reflect its historic architecture.
The school, built in 1904 and closed 70 years later, burned in 2008.
After a legal battle with the nonprofit owners, the city eventually took the 3.2-acre property to satisfy a $223,000 lien for demolition and legal fees. In 2012, the city sought proposals to redevelop the property.
The sole bidder, the nonprofit Waco Community Development Corp., proposed a $3.4 million development of up to 25 owner-occupied homes, plus a playground and walking trails. The city of Waco never acted on the proposal.
Waco CDC executive director Mike Stone had expressed interest in this year’s request for proposal process but decided against it.
“We couldn’t get the finances to work,” Stone said.
He said the biggest obstacle was the old basement of the Sanger School, which was filled with charred rubble during the city’s demolition. He said that rubble would have to be excavated and replaced with fill dirt to make the new development CDC wants possible.
Gonzalez is proposing a relatively low-cost project for the site. He estimated that he could built a 150-by-100-foot metal building, complete with air conditioning and a commercial kitchen, for about $250,000. The parking lot, utilities and the $10,000 he’s offering for the land could bring the total to no more than $350,000, he said.
Gonzalez said the project would normally cost more, but he would serve as contractor, using his years of experience as a subcontractor with local property restoration companies.
Gonzalez said he would be willing to work with the city to make the metal building look appealing to the surrounding neighborhood. That could include using various materials in the façade and possibly incorporating the old entryway arch from the Sanger School.