Shopping center

Developers proposing a shopping center on a 200-acre site on Interstate 35 have prepared a site plan showing 30 retail sites, restaurants, office space, a fitness center and a movie theater.

The Dallas-based Stainback Organization has prepared a site plan for a development it proposes at Interstate 35 and West Loop 340 that includes more than 30 retail sites, restaurants, office space, a fitness center and a movie theater spread across 200 acres.

Stainback announced earlier this year it would buy 200 of the 350 acres across I-35 from Central Texas Marketplace that real estate agent Bland Cromwell is marketing for an investment group. Stainback chairman and CEO Kent Stainback, a Baylor University graduate, said he envisions a center that includes high-end retail, entertainment and dining.

“We’re working with a good mix of users,” said Ford Stainback, vice president of brokerage and development for the family-operated company. “We have nothing finalized but we are getting a lot of interest in what we consider a great corner. We hope to offer a mix of everything, including retail, lodging and entertainment options.”

Stainback said the company has put 200 acres under contract for purchase and will close on the deal when commitments from potential users dictate that construction should start. He expects to break ground in two to five years.

The site plan the company is featuring in its promotional material serves as a working wish list, Stainback said. It includes a 140,800-square-foot retail anchor, a 36,400-square-foot movie theater, three 50,000-square-foot office complexes, a 36,000-square-foot fitness complex, a 136,000-square-foot retailer, and a hotel and convention complex.

Other retail and restaurant sites of various sizes appear throughout the proposed development that hugs a corner across West Loop 340 from a 635-acre site that John and Jeff Bowden sold to the Waco Industrial Foundation for use in attracting industrial clients to Greater Waco.

The Stainbacks have said the mixed-use development could complement the growing Central Texas Marketplace, a 487,000-square-foot center that started attracting retailers in 2004 and continues to expand. The marketplace has seen a growth spurt in recent years, marking the arrival of Massage Envy, Cabela’s, World Market, Havertys and La-Z-Boy.

“Waco has seen a lot of retail growth, but there are a lot of people not here,” Cromwell said, commenting on the Stainbacks’ proposed concentration of stores in their development. “What we’re finding out with studies of similar-sized markets is that there are a lot of holes in our retail market. This is an interstate site, with 110,000 cars a day passing the site. I think the amount of retail they are proposing is fine.”

Cromwell said he knows the Stainbacks are aggressively pursuing prospects, and the site will not fill overnight. Development could take years and proceed in stages, as it has at Central Texas Marketplace.

“If you name 10 retailers, I’m sure they are talking to them,” he said.

Sam’s Club and Costco

Asked about speculation that Sam’s Club, which sells merchandise in bulk, has shown interest in the development, Cromwell said, “I would assume Sam’s has heard about the site, but I don’t know their thoughts.”

Cromwell said he often gets asked about Costco and its interest in Waco.

“This center would be a great spot for them, and they would be a good fit for the center, but I have heard they want to find out how the market is doing in Lubbock before they make any more Texas moves,” he said.

Costco Wholesale, a membership-only wholesale giant, placed stores in the state’s larger metropolitan areas starting in 2000. But in 2013, it opened a location in Lubbock, which is comparable in size to Waco. Lubbock County’s population has reached almost 301,000, and McLennan County’s has reached almost 253,000, according to 2016 estimates by the Texas Demographic Center.

Pat Farrar, a local commercial real estate agent not involved in the Stainback project, said he thinks filling the property will take years.

“It’s a long-term project for sure,” Farrar said. “Not knowing what retailers they have on board to kick things off, it is kind of hard to project. But what does Waco still need? That’s something I ask myself every day. It feels like we’re near the saturation point for bigger-box retail, but that does change.”

Farrar said he is aware the Stainbacks are pursuing stores that sell higher quality merchandise, which is not surprising “since it’s difficult to afford new construction without higher-end tenants.”

He said he thinks the proposed development will take some retailers away from other shopping locales in Greater Waco.

“Honestly, to make it work, they will need to cannibalize some tenants out of their existing space,” he said. “There is not enough demand for all new retailers, restaurants and what-have-you. It’s ambitious, and I will follow their progress with interest. It’s a great site, and a lot of retailers are looking at Waco that haven’t in the past. Whether they will hop in there, I don’t know.”

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