McLennan Community College trustees are deciding whether to demolish or renovate the beleaguered historical building that housed the Art Center of Waco for more than four decades. Renovation would cost almost $4 million.
A critical beam pulled away from an exterior wall last month and forced the building to be evacuated.
The approximately century-old structure is the former summer home of William Waldo Cameron, son of William Cameron, a Scottish immigrant who made Waco the headquarters of his business empire.
After the elder Cameron’s death in 1899, W.W. Cameron and his mother and sisters, donated William Cameron Park to the city. The Art Center had used the building since 1976.
No one has used the building since the Art Center cleared out in early October, and the Art Center is temporarily operating out of the downtown gallery Cultivate 7twelve while officials search for a permanent space.
A structural engineer told the MCC board during its meeting Tuesday that an analysis showed failures in the rear wall of the Cameron House facing Lake Shore Drive. Wood siding on the outside of the building was all that held it in place.
Even before the structural problem forced it out, the Art Center was planning to move to a new location after its lease with MCC ends next year.
Demolishing the house at that point would cost the college $154,350, and renovating the building would cost more than $3.8 million. Asbestos abatement will be required no matter what, officials said.
Trustees will decide how to proceed in the coming months.
The Art Center’s courtyard, a popular wedding site and moneymaker for the nonprofit, is also no longer being used. Weddings already scheduled there will be moved.
Board Chairman K. Paul Holt said MCC and the Art Center have enjoyed “a great partnership for a long time.”
“This has been far less than favorable for any of us,” Holt said. “It’s been very disruptive for them, for which we’re incredibly sorry.”
MCC President Johnette McKown said the college has been evaluating the best use for the house for a while.
“We had thought that if it were preserved, it would be an opportunity for some donors to possibly come on and work with us,” McKown said. “It doesn’t have a strong educational mission, but it does have a good community presence.”