PANARA

Panera Bread is considering a second area restaurant between Chick-fil-A and the Freddy’s eatery under construction near South Eighth Street and the Interstate 35 frontage road.

The Panera Bread chain, known for its selection of soups and sandwiches, wants to place a second location in Waco and is considering the lot at South Eighth Street and Interstate 35, between Chick-fil-A and a Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers eatery under construction, a Panera Bread official said.

“We’re waiting on the finalization of a deal, so this is not 100 percent in stone, but the company is interested in opening another location and that is exactly the site being considered,” said Jimmy Rogers, who manages the Panera Bread in Central Texas Marketplace, West Loop 340 at Interstate 35, which opened about 10 years ago.

Rogers said the business at the marketplace “is doing absolutely great.” He said Panera may have targeted the site on I-35 at South Eighth Street “because of the volume of traffic in that trade area, the presence of Baylor University nearby and the access to downtown. The demographics are there to generate traffic numbers.”

For years, the area around Fifth and Sixth streets and I-35 has been home to a cluster of restaurants that includes McDonald’s, Whataburger, Long John Silver’s, Sonic, Taco Bell, Taco Cabana and Fazoli’s, among others.

But since Baylor spent $266 million to build an on-campus football facility, McLane Stadium, dining and retail chains have shown increased interest in placing establishments along the I-35 corridor near the campus and downtown.

Dallas-based DuWest Realty demolished the Clarion Hotel at South Fourth Street and I-35 and is placing there an In-N-Out Burger that DuWest spokesman Scott Rodgers said should open for business in mid- to late October.

A CVS pharmacy going up adjacent to the burger restaurant “should open shortly thereafter,” Rodgers said by phone.

Meanwhile, DuWest is developing two small shopping centers on South Fourth and South Fifth streets, near Torchy’s Tacos, “which should be ready for delivery to users by the second quarter of 2016,” Rodgers said.

Each will cover 8,000 to 9,000 square feet, and Rodgers is lining up retail and restaurant users to fill them.

“I’m excited about these centers. They should be great for Baylor and Waco,” Rodgers said by phone.

He said the restaurants with which he has leases pending “are national, quick-service chains, though not fast-food.”

The Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers restaurant going up on I-35 is tentatively scheduled to open Oct. 8, and hiring has begun, said Shonda Bear, who manages the Freddy’s on Hewitt Drive that opened in May.

California-based Panera Bread has grown to 1,901 locations that do business under the names Panera Bread, St. Louis Bread Co. and Paradise Bakery & Cafe. The chain dotes on natural ingredients, saying on its website that it serves chicken raised without the use of antibiotics, whole-grain breads and meals with “select organic and all-natural ingredients.”

The site on I-35 on which Panera Bread reportedly will place its second Waco location is listed by Hardesty Realty Group, of Dallas, which did not return phone calls Thursday seeking comment on the status of the lot.

Bobby Horner, an inspection supervisor for the city of Waco, said plans examiners there have heard rumors of Panera Bread’s interest in placing a new restaurant at Eighth Street and I-35, but have received no formal plans.

“I hope the talk is true because that would be a great place for one, in my opinion,” Horner said.

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