Yet again Mission Waco executive director Jimmy Dorrell has seen his knack for raising money bear fruit. He announced a family-run Christian foundation has pledged $220,000 toward converting the former Martha Jane’s liquor store in North Waco into a neighborhood asset.

Dorrell said he has launched a campaign to raise matching funds that would provide $440,000 to renovate the decades-old building at North 15th Street and Colcord Avenue into space that can be leased out to businesses.

Mission Waco bought the building for $125,000 from longtime proprietor Martha Jane Ezar last summer.

The Christ is Our Salvation foundation made the cornerstone pledge. Businessman Paul Piper and his wife, Mary “Katy” Piper, created the foundation in 1952 and have supported a variety of ministries and helped Baptist state conventions start churches, Dorrell wrote in a newsletter.

“As a part of the family’s ongoing belief that economic and community development is a part of the Christian call, the foundation recently awarded a match grant of $220,000 to Mission Waco/Mission World for the continued redevelopment of the historic North Waco neighborhood that continues to rebound from years of blight and poverty,” he wrote.

Trustees Paul Piper Jr. and his wife, Shirley, and the Pipers’ granddaughters now run the foundation.

People living in the area have suggested an array of possible uses for the 3,600-square-foot structure that previously served as home to the liquor store and three leased spaces, but no decisions have been made. Suggestions include a pizza parlor, office space, laundromat, book store, retail shop, or a combination thereof.

Dorrell said he has approached Waco real estate agent Brad Davis about marketing Martha Jane’s.

It is in an area that serves as home to the Mission Waco/Mission World complex that includes Jubilee Theatre, World Cup Cafe and Fair Trade Market, Jubilee Food Market, and youth, job training and legal services.

“We will put in there what the neighborhood believes is worthy,” Dorrell said of the Martha Jane’s space. “We’re a nonprofit, so we just need to break even. We envision leasing out the space to one or more users, and we are hoping to begin renovation by mid-February, with it becoming available by late spring or early summer.”

Dorrell said an architect is putting together plans for the aging structure that envision “really cool-looking windows and canopies,” fresh signage, interior remodeling and installation of a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. The complex is divided into four sections, allowing for multiple users, but that layout is not set in stone, Dorrell said.

“We did consider leveling the existing structure, but we like the idea of rehabbing old buildings, which are iconic and what the neighborhood is all about,” Dorrell said. “Too, if we leveled it and started over, the parking would have to be redone, so we didn’t think about that very long.”

He said the building itself has little parking, but other spaces are available in the vicinity.

“We had about 50 people at the meeting to discuss possible uses, and we received 24 recommendations. Hopefully, with the announcement of this grant, we will get even more,” Dorrell said.

Taking a page from the playbook he used to raise money for Jubilee Food Market, Dorrell has proposed selling simulated stock in the Martha Jane’s redevelopment, which is being called the Colcord Office and Retail Development, with a price of $25 per share.

“In effect, each share becomes worth $50 to Mission Waco due to the match grant we will receive,” Dorrell said in his newsletter. “A certificate will be given to each investor/donor.”

Dorrell said money may become available to assist lessees build out their individual space, and that the Mission Waco board has given him approval to proceed with the project using money already pledged.

“Options will be considered as tenants explore moving into the center,” Dorrell said. “What remains now is the investment of the community to release each dollar for dollar through generosity.”

Donations can be made at secure.paperlesstrans.com/MissionWaco.

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