At least two hotels, including one that will bring a new Hilton-branded lodging concept to Waco, will go up next to Central Texas Marketplace, according to a local real estate agent involved in brokering the sale of land to a Mississippi-based developer. A third hotel in the same area is also in the works.
Heritage Hospitality Group has bought two lots covering almost 5.6 acres along Marketplace Drive, across the street from an existing Hampton Inn & Suites and next to a 32-unit independent living community called Emerald Cottages taking shape near Bagby Avenue.
Dallas-based Emerald Cottages Group sold the land to Heritage in a deal brokered by real estate agent Jim Peevey, who said the two lots had a combined asking price of almost $1.5 million.
Peevey said Heritage hopes to build a Residence Inn by Marriott, the second in Greater Waco, and a Tru by Hilton property that represents an attempt by Hilton to attract millennials, according to the Hilton website.
Fortune magazine reported that Hilton Worldwide chose the Tru by Hilton concept to compete with the growing popularity of the Airbnb and other vacation rental services. Hilton announced in 2016 it had signed leases for 102 Tru hotels, “with an additional 30 locations in the pipeline in cities including Atlanta, Houston, Portland and Chicago,” according to Fortune.
Rooms in a Tru by Hilton are typically smaller than those found in more upscale Hilton properties and are priced at $100 or less for overnight stays. The first Tru opened in Oklahoma City in May of this year.
“Tru is a good name, if you read what has been written about it. We were excited when we heard what this development group has planned,” Peevey said. “And Residence Inn obviously is doing enough business downtown that they felt comfortable with opening a second location.”
Peevey said the arrival of at least two more lodging establishments, especially near the Central Texas Marketplace at West Loop 340, Interstate 35 and Bagby Avenue, should prove beneficial to the growing number of dining and shopping destinations locally.
“I think this is awesome for Waco,” he said. “I know when I travel with my family, we’re in the hotel at night, that’s it. The rest of the time we’re enjoying what the city has to offer, including the restaurants.”
Meanwhile, Austin real estate agent Charlie Quisenberry is listing acreage adjacent to the hotel tracts Peevey has sold.
Quisenberry said a hotel developer has placed a portion of the site under contract, with plans to build “a Hilton-branded product,” though he would not identify the name it carries. Peevey said if that deal materializes, three new hotels would sit nearly side-by-side on Marketplace Drive.
“That’s not surprising,” Peevey said. “It’s not unusual for hotels to cluster once a matrix has been created. They do their homework, and I’m sure the Hilton that Charlie mentioned will complement what else is coming.”
Ali Bhatti, vice president of development for Heritage Hospitality, said the company had received authority to build Tru by Hilton locations in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, and recently added Texas to its list. It chose Bryan-College Station and Waco as cities to target.
“We will have 98 rooms spread over four stories, which is the prototype for Tru by Hilton,” Bhatti said. “We like college markets, and we have family and friends who attended Baylor University. We hope to move dirt by January for an opening the following January.”
He said the Residence Inn will have about 105 rooms over four floors, but plans for it are not finalized.
The group is investing between $26 million and $28 million to buy the land and build the two hotels, Bhatti said.
Quisenberry said he also has secured a deal with Baylor Scott & White Health to place a clinic near Emerald Cottages. He also plans two 8,000-square-foot commercial strip centers, which he has almost filled with lessees, he said.
Quisenberry identified the users as Mattress One and CycleBar, a growing chain that allows patrons to ride stationary bikes in a surround-sound theater setting that features “audio, video and lighting technology,” according to its website.
These projects are taking shape not only near Emerald Cottages but also adjacent to an assisted-living facility called Arbor House and a skilled-nursing center called The Brazos, all part of a senior-centric community the Emerald Cottages Group is crafting near the marketplace.
“The way things stand now, the more the merrier,” said Susan Morton, tourism manager for the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau, commenting on the arrival of additional hotel rooms.
Morton said tourism is booming, and convention and entertainment business could surge with the completion of a $34 million expansion of the Extraco Events Center to be paid for with hotel and rental car taxes.
Also, Amarillo-based economist Karr Ingham, who prepares a monthly report on local economic trends, reported that Waco-area hotel revenue through May totaled $19.5 million, a 9 percent increase from the same period in 2016. Putting that in perspective, the total all of last year was 19 percent higher than that for 2015, representing the largest increase of any Texas market, according to the firm Source Strategies.
Waco’s hotel occupancy rate now stands at 69.9 percent, fourth-highest in the state behind only Austin, Dallas and El Paso, Morton said.
Elsewhere in Waco, site preparation has begun for a 110-room La Quinta Del Sol near 11th Street and the Interstate 35 frontage road. It will replace the aging La Quinta on the other side of the interstate near Baylor University.
Lalani Lodging is going up with an 111-room Hilton Garden Inn at Legends Crossing. It also owns the adjacent Homewood Suites.
A full-service hotel of at least 110 rooms, plus a restaurant, spa and conference center, is part of Catalyst Urban Development’s plans to develop the city riverfront near Webster Avenue.
A 125-room Springhill Suites will replace the Executive Inn at 115 S. Jack Kultgen Expressway. Dallas-based DBG Investments has proposed a seven-story structure with multilevel parking, an indoor-outdoor pool, food service and a rooftop deck.