Suggestions flowed freely Saturday for Mission Waco’s new space near 15th Street and Colcord Avenue, including conversion to a thrift or retail store, a neighborhood library, a laundromat or a late-night restaurant.

“We believe people with a problem need to be a part of the solution,” Mission Waco executive director Jimmy Dorrell said. “This community knows what they need and they have the ideas that matter.”

Mission Waco hosted a gathering Saturday morning at its newly purchased building that formerly housed Martha Jane’s Liquor Store, near the Jubilee Food Market. More than 30 neighbors, supporters and community leaders toured the former liquor store as Dorrell collected ideas and answered questions about the three potential retail spaces in the now vacant strip mall.

“We will take all these ideas that came in, evaluate them and possibly find a reoccurring theme and consider those ideas,” Dorrell said.

Revitalization efforts are benefiting the area that was formerly known for drug dealing, prostitution and other criminal activity, said Robert Jackson, president of the Brook Oaks Neighborhood Association.

“I absolutely love this and I think all this community development is long overdue,” Jackson said. “This has been an effort to bring the community and neighborhood back together.”

Jackson said he has been involved with the Brook Oaks neighborhood for nearly 25 years and believes additional retail locations will bring rejuvenating life to North Waco and build on the success of other Mission Waco ventures nearby.

“We have services and businesses that we have to leave our neighborhood to go get to,” Jackson said. “I’d like to see a dry cleaner’s, I’d like to see a Little Caesars pizza shop or a Wing Stop, because we have to leave our neighborhood for things like that. It’s important to be able to spend your money in your own neighborhood.”

Dorrell said Mission Waco is working with an Austin-based architect who is volunteering his services to ensure the structural integrity of the building and compliance with zoning regulations. Dorrell said between $350,000 to $500,000 in fundraising will be needed to revitalize the buildings.

“We know that to do the final pieces of urban renewal over here that we have to have economic development,” Dorrell said. “We can have all the programs to help the community that we can think of, but if we are going to have a healing of the neighborhood, we have to have economic growth.”

Dorrell said Mission Waco will start to gut the buildings in the next few weeks or months and get a better understanding of proposals. He said he will go over community suggestions and start to draft ideas for additional community feedback.

Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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