The downtown Tax Increment Financing Zone board Tuesday recommended funding for a memorial to Pearl Harbor hero Doris Miller and to a student housing project at the old South Waco Junior High School property.
The board approved $180,132 for the Doris Miller memorial, a $1.4 million landscape sculpture next to Washington Avenue bridge in Bledsoe- Miller Park.
Lyndon Olson Jr., a businessman and former ambassador who is involved in the Cultural Arts of Waco fundraising effort, delivered an impassioned plea for supporting the project. He called Miller a “native hero” who crossed the color line to save his shipmates at Pearl Harbor.
He said the memorial would be a powerful symbol of racial inclusiveness in Waco, drawing people from downtown across the Brazos River, which long divided black and white Waco.
“It is to me a very healing memorial for this community,” he said.
The Doris Miller campaign has raised about $313,000. The TIF funding, if approved by Waco City Council, would push the fund beyond $500,000, allowing the campaign to access an additional $300,000 that has been offered by foundations and private donors.
Also Tuesday, the TIF board recommended $482,769 for the first phase of West Campus Lofts, a student housing project at 805 S. Eighth St. An Austin company plans to erect 36 modular apartment units on the campus of the former South Waco Junior High School, which served most recently as an alternative school.
The modular units would be stacked in a four-story development and would be clad in brick to complement the school and nearby Baylor University.
The Waco Downtown Development Corp. board gave the project a relatively low ranking, resulting in an initial staff recommendation that the TIF board give a matching grant of only 5 percent, or $241,384.
But the staff bumped up its recommendation to 10 percent based on the company’s plans to build an offsite sewer line that would benefit nearby properties, as well as the company’s promise to preserve the historic school. That school, built in the 1920s, is expected to be converted into loft apartments in the second phase.