Nancy Grayson

Elm Avenue entrepreneur Nancy Grayson scuttled her plans for a food market on Elm Avenue after a dispute with the city over roll-down doors.

A building on Elm Avenue has hit the market priced at $595,000, a figure that includes the metal security doors that sparked a feud between the Waco City Council and East Waco advocate Nancy Grayson.

Grayson had renovated the building at 700 Elm Ave. to become a food market serving the East Waco “food desert.”

But in August she pulled the plug on her vision in a dispute with city officials, who had wanted her to remove roll-down doors to qualify for Tax Increment Financing Zone incentives.

District 1 Councilwoman Andrea Barefield said the doors, which Grayson already had installed, sent an unwelcome message that the area poised for growth was unsafe.

Grayson, who owns the popular Lula Jane’s bakery on Elm Avenue, said Wednesday she continues to struggle with what transpired.

She said she spent three years planning to open a food market that would sell healthy foods, not snacks and sodas, and a year renovating the Gladstone-Knight building on Elm Avenue.

She said the impasse over using roll-up doors was more a blow for East Waco than for her, and she wishes the area well.

“I put up my own for-sale sign in September, received inquiries every day, but I don’t have time to pursue it any longer,” she said. “My plate’s full. I’ve got a bakery to run and houses to fix up. I do want something here that is good for Elm Street and good for the neighborhood, something that’s positive for this side of the river. This is an explosive area in terms of development, but there is nothing much for sale, especially nothing completely renovated, which that building is.

“The space is for sale free and clear. It has no ties to the city. Initially I had been awarded TIF funds, but I decided not to take those.”

TIF funds, generated by a portion of property tax revenue collected on downtown-area properties, are reinvested in those areas to spur development.

Grayson said she would welcome a buyer who would take up the cause of placing a grocery in the 700 block of Elm Avenue.

Commercial real estate specialists Gregg Glime and Bland Cromwell, both with Coldwell Banker Commercial, are listing Grayson’s property.

‘Hot property’

“I got a couple of heavy hitters because it’s a hot property,” said Grayson, laughing. “We don’t play around. There is a lot of interest.”

Glime, who has a heavy concentration of listings downtown, toured Grayson’s building Wednesday, just hours after the listing became official.

“It’s a completely renovated building, and she did it first-class from a construction standpoint,” he said. “It’s completely finished out and ready for someone to move in immediately. I’ve got a food/restaurant user looking at it. At least one fitness concept is interested, a boutique-type fitness user, not anything like the Train Waco big-box place across the street. A local investor visited over the weekend. There’s a lot of activity going on over here, and this is right in the middle of it. She’s wanting to sell, and is excited about a good user.”

Ripe for development

District 1 Councilwoman Andrea Barefield, whose district includes East Waco, said she likewise would welcome a user with designs on opening a grocery.

“I’ve had conversations with local people interested in doing just that,” Barefield said. “The need has not gone away.”

She added the community is ripe for development creating places to eat, work and shop. Anything planned, she said, “should meet design standards the city and community have set.”

David Littlewood, president of TFNB Your Bank for Life, recently announced plans to open an East Waco branch in the 13,000-square-foot Train Waco building almost directly across the street from Grayson’s building. Space will be made available for small business and retail launches.

“Elm Street is vibrant,” Littlewood said. “Public investment in infrastructure, along with private ventures that include the new hotels, is going to retool the street from Martin Luther King Jr. to almost the interstate. In three to five years, I predict, there will be no distinguishing factors between development in East Waco and that on the west side of the river, around Magnolia Market and the Baylor campus.”

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