The public and the Waco City Council on Tuesday will get their first look at proposals for developing a site surrounding Heritage Square downtown, with one featuring a 15,000-square-foot grocery store anchoring a retail-heavy complex and the other 500,000 square feet of Class A office space.
“The staff will recommend the office space, but the decision was so close I thought the council should hear both proposals,” Waco City Manager Dale Fisseler said. “Both are such quality developments we may have an interest in offering another site to the runner-up.”
City staffers have been reviewing the proposals since the May 31 deadline for their submission. Fisseler said the city likely will pursue a long-term ground lease that allows Waco to retain ownership of the property, located between Washington and Austin avenues at Third Street.
A partnership called The Civic Center, formed by Dallas commercial developer Phillip Williams and Waco urban planning consultant Chris McGowan, proposes the office development that includes ground-level retail and on-site structured parking.
McGowan declined to discuss details of the project Saturday.
“We have a presentation to make, and are just hoping to move the ball forward on what we consider an interesting project,” he said. “We believe there is a market for quality office space downtown, and we’ll have a lot more to say about that on Tuesday. I don’t know which project the staff will recommend.”
When the city announced acceptance of the two proposals in June, McGowan said he believes the proposed development site represents the “hub” for downtown Waco and could bring more jobs to the central city.
Ed Kinkeade, a Dallas federal judge and Baylor University alumnus, has proposed a mixed-used development with a grocery store, retail space and offices.
He is representing an entity called 300 Clay Avenue LLC, which proposes to call the development Heritage Crossing, according to the council agenda.
“We would need significant drivers such as population density and income levels to bring a grocery downtown, and I’m not sure we’re there yet, though I would love to have one,” said Kris Collins, the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president for economic development. I do know we have a strong need for office space.
“One of our goals is bringing more professional employers to Waco, especially downtown, where we have no Class A professional office space. How much could we fill up? I would hate to speculate on a number. I wouldn’t want to box us in. I do know Waco is appearing on a lot of people’s radar.”
Collins said she will attend the project presentations Tuesday.
“The elements I’ve heard about both projects lead me to believe they would be fantastic additions to downtown,” City Center Waco executive director Megan Henderson said. “The challenge is figuring out the long-term timing and spacing of the proposed developments.”
Fisseler said he does not know the brand of the grocery store proposed for Heritage Square.
Whether Waco could absorb half-a-million square feet of quality office space is another issue that would require discussion over several months, Fisseler said. Both groups likely would expect use of the land “at little or no cost” and would propose rebates from the Tax Increment Financing Zone for public infrastructure improvements.
McGowan’s partner on the 500,000-square-foot office project, Phillip Williams, has been developing office and mixed-use property in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex for almost 20 years.
Williams partnered with the city of Allen to develop an upscale mixed-use urban center known as Watters Creek at Montgomery Farm, with 415,000 square feet of retail space, restaurants, offices and apartments.
Meanwhile, in the past few years, Kinkeade has developed two apartment complexes downtown at 222 Clay Ave. and 300 Clay Ave.
The city council will discuss the development proposals during a 3 p.m. work session in the Bosque Room of the Waco Convention Center.
At 6 p.m., council members will go into regular session and vote on leasing two floors in the Waco Police Department headquarters adjacent to the old Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center campus in North Waco to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The bureau will spend about $370,000 renovating the space, and it will share the $85,600 cost of interior demolition with the city.
Also during the work session, the council will hear a report on the Downtown Trolley, which has linked central-city attractions and parking areas for one year. Information provided by the city shows 171,534 passengers have used the trolley, an average of 3,431 per week.
It has cost $254,393 to operate, or $1.48 per passenger.