Vacant buildings at strategic locations around Greater Waco are attracting varying degrees of interest. But the former Twin Peaks site in Central Texas Marketplace, which became the scene of a bloody shootout involving biker gangs and law enforcement on May 17, has attracted interest from restaurants that would be new to Waco.

These prospects reportedly would use the building instead of leveling it and erecting a new establishment that some say would help erase memories of the deadly standoff.

Bunny McLeod, a Dallas- and Houston-based real estate agent who has been involved in recruiting other tenants to the marketplace located at State Highway 6 and Interstate 35, confirmed Thursday that multiple prospects have visited Waco and the restaurant site since she assumed the listing in mid-January.

“There definitely is interest in the place, because it is a great piece of real estate,” McLeod said. “We’ve been inside, and it looks great.”

Sources tell the Tribune-Herald they have noticed lights on inside the hunting-lodge style building on at least three occasions.

McLeod said the tragedy that unfolded there in May of last year “doesn’t seem to have affected its marketability.” Several local real estate agents told the Tribune-Herald they thought the violence that left nine bikers dead would create a stigma that would require the owners of the 7,869-square-foot building to tear it down and market only the property on which it sits.

“So far, those to whom I’ve shown it have indicated it does not make a bit of economic sense to knock it down,” McLeod said. “It’s a great building and in great shape.”

The building is wrapped in plastic to deter people not authorized to enter.

The building was initially priced at $4.2 million, but McLeod said that is not the figure she is quoting, though she declined to discuss specifics. The McLennan County Appraisal District appraised the building-and-patio complex at $3.1 million for tax purposes in 2015.

LoopNet, an online real estate site, shows that an 8,587-square-foot Twin Peaks building a 10-minute drive from downtown El Paso was priced at $4.16 million, while a 6,625-square-foot Twin Peaks building on Southwest Loop 340 in San Antonio carried a price tag of $5.2 million.

McLeod said restaurant chains are looking not only at the Twin Peaks building but other sites at the marketplace, which last year welcomed the arrival of several new retailers. The list included Haverty’s Furniture, La-Z-Boy Home Furnishings & Decor, a Cavender’s Boot City superstore, Five Below, Cost Plus/World Market, Charming Charlie and Massage Envy.

Cavender’s move to the marketplace from Westview Village created a vacancy that has been filled by Amish Oak of Texas.

Jo Ann Fabric & Craft relocated to the marketplace from Bosque Plaza, located at New Road and Bosque Boulevard, and that space remains vacant as of Thursday.

In August of 2013, grocery giant H-E-B opened a new store at South Valley Mills Drive and the Interstate 35 frontage road. At the same time, it closed smaller stores near Baylor University and at Dutton Avenue and Valley Mills Drive adjacent to Floyd Casey Stadium.

Apartments are going up where the Baylor-area H-E-B once stood, but deals keep falling through on the H-E-B building near Baylor’s old football field.

$3.5 million

Real estate agent Jim Peevey, who is listing the site, said this week the third prospect to put the 47,000-square-foot building under contract pending completion of a feasibility study has backed away from closing on the purchase. H-E-B is asking $3.5 million for the structure.

Peevey said H-E-B has imposed restrictions on the building that forbid any user from selling groceries or fuel, or operating a pharmacy or car wash. The restrictions are meant to ensure the new user does not provide competition for H-E-B’s new store, but they also make finding a buyer more challenging.

“A lot depends on what happens with the stadium,” Peevey said.

Floyd Casey Stadium, which is across Dutton Avenue from the building, is being demolished. A deal is pending that would give the city of Waco a cleared Floyd Casey Stadium site in exchange for a five-acre property at Interstate 35 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, near McLane Stadium.

City officials have said they will recommend a master plan for the redevelopment of the Floyd Casey site. Improvements reportedly could include residential, office and commercial development, as well as recreational and sports uses.

At 115 Mary Ave. in downtown Waco, the Wild West Waco nightclub has pulled the plug on its dancing and drinking.

“That has caught the eye of several club owners from Texas and outside the state,” said Hunter Harrell, who is listing the 7,000-square-foot space.

Harrell said he also is marketing 17,000 square feet on the second floor of the Stone’s Throw building at University Parks Drive and Mary Avenue, so named because of its proximity to downtown and Lake Brazos. The Bangkok Royal restaurant and Bicycle World occupy space on the first floor, where a Fuzzy’s Taco soon will take 4,000 square feet.

“I’ve sent out marketing packages for the whole second floor, and I’ve received some feelers out of it,” Harrell said.

Other vacancies recently were created with the closing of the historic Elite Cafe on Waco’s traffic circle and WiseGuys-A Chicago Eatery in Westview Village, at Waco and Valley Mills drives. Vivian Griffith, a bookkeeper for Hoppenstein Properties, which owns Westview, said a prospect “turned in some paperwork,” showing interest in the vacancy.

“We do see that site remaining restaurant space, but the final decision rests with our boss,” said Griffith, referring to Norman Hoppenstein.

Meanwhile, the Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar at 4225 Franklin Ave. will create a vacancy when it builds a new home at Central Texas Marketplace.

Local restaurateur Sammy Citrano, who owns the Buffalo Wild Wings building, said he will put real estate agent Bland Cromwell to work finding a new tenant.

Cromwell, a 39-year veteran of the Waco commercial and industrial real estate scene, said he’s “seen nothing even vaguely close” to the development Waco has experienced the past couple of years and he sees no signs of new developments slowing.

Fortunately, Cromwell said, Waco historically has been successful at “putting new names on former buildings,” so vacancies have not become a problem.

He added that in most cases, local restaurants expand their presence in the Greater Waco market instead of relocating. For example, Raising Cane’s is placing a third restaurant locally to complement others on Hewitt Drive and Franklin Avenue. Panera Bread, now in Central Texas Marketplace, will place a second location next to Waco’s new Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers at I-35 and South Eighth Street, and Chick-fil-A placed a new location in South Waco while maintaining its Richland Mall and Franklin Avenue locations.

Chili’s relocation

A notable exception is Chili’s decision to close at Valley Mills Drive and Bosque Boulevard when it opens a new restaurant at I-35 and South Valley Mills Drive, in a new development anchored by a 42,000-square-foot Gander Mountain that features three restaurants new to Waco: Bubba’s 33, Potbelly Sandwich Shop and Zoe’s Kitchen.

Kris Collins, senior vice president for economic development at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, said a subscription service the chamber uses shows that 19 retail and restaurant establishments covering 320,000 square feet have opened locally since 2013.

“But that’s hardly an exhaustive list,” Collins said. “It probably is much more.”

New restaurants that opened last year include Saltgrass Steak House, In-N-Out Burger, Jersey Mike’s Subs and Twisted Root Burger Co.

Whataburger built a new restaurant at Lake Air and Valley Mills drives to anchor a new shopping center, closing an existing restaurant at Valley Mills and Waco drives in the process. That building remains on the market, as does the vacant Chinese Kitchen Buffet building next door listed by real estate agent Kenny Stevens.

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