The Waco City Council decided Tuesday to pave the way for downtown, uptown and Elm Avenue to buzz with electric scooters.
At their meeting, all six members of the council said the city should publicly request transportation vendors submit proposals for share operations for bikes and scooters in Waco.
All three companies that submitted proposals for bike-share programs at the city’s request also included scooters as optional ad-ons, so city staffers looked to council members to determine how best to proceed amid a national trend of scooter use in metropolitan areas.
“I think it’s a great program,” District 3 Councilman John Kinnaird said. “I’d love to see them scoot around town, in our bike lanes, appropriately and safely, as soon as possible.”
The program launch will not be until the summer or fall of next year, according to the city.
The city will first reject the three proposals from Zagster Inc., Veoride Inc. and Gotcha Bikes LLC, then amend city regulations to allow for a company to operate scooters on public property so that similar proposals can be accepted later.
Chelsea Phlegar, a senior planner with the Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization, told the council the city could work with one of the three potential vendors and continue the process to only accept bikes, which was the original proposal. A working group supported by the downtown Public Improvement District studied the viability of a bike-share program earlier this year and recommended the city pursue one. If the council had opted to stay the course, bikes would have likely been available for public use in the spring.
Council members instead voiced support for a program with more flexibility to include bikes, scooters and potentially other vehicles as technology or trends change.
“I believe we can do it because I think the conversations have already been started enough,” District 1 Councilwoman Andrea J. Barefield said. “I don’t think it’s going to be that hard to switch to make that happen.”
Conversations surrounding safety and city regulations of the scooters are likely to continue.
Chase Hardy, a Baylor Law School student, spoke in favor of the scooters during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“I know that our city is a very pro-business group, pro-innovation, and I just really hope that even though there’s some scary aspects to it, we can really embrace that and move forward as we think in these discussions,” Hardy said.
TIF projects approved
The council approved five recommendations by the downtown Tax Increment Financing Zone board.
- Termination of the contract with Waco Franklin Place Apartments Ltd. for a second phase worth $750,000. The money will be returned to the TIF Zone fund.
- Approval of $531,185 toward the $2.6 million renovation of the former St. James United Methodist Church. Lane and Amy Murphy plan to convert the historical Methodist church into a restaurant and bar designed by J. Fall Group, which operates restaurants in Chicago and Los Angeles.
- Approval of $545,125 toward the $3.6 million renovation of the former Bank of America building at 510, 514 and 518 Austin Ave. Homebuilder Steve Sorrells plans to convert the area into office space.
- Amendment of the contract with Brotherwell Brewing at 400 East Bridge St. to extend its completion deadline to June 1.
- Cancellation of a request from Magnolia Market at the Silos for $153,910 to resurface and landscape a parking lot near the tourist destination. Magnolia has indicated it is preparing a new master plan for the property in and around Sixth Street and Webster Avenue, which will address the parking lot, according to a city staffer.
The council awarded a contract to Barsh Co., a Waco-based construction firm, for the renewal of the 700 block of Elm Avenue. The project, worth about $680,000, includes improvements to sidewalks, drainage, lighting, landscaping and accessibility.
Downtown TIF Zone funds and capital improvement funds will pay for the project. The city expects the contract to be finalized in the next four to six weeks, and the work should be completed within 110 working days thereafter.
Known as the “model block” project, it will serve as a precursor to further development on Elm Avenue. Work on a $3.8 million “streetscape” project on Elm, funded by the TIF Zone and the Texas Department of Transportation, has not yet been awarded to a firm.
“It’s just really exciting to see the work that’s being done over there, as well as the work that’s being done to get community input on what the community around Elm Avenue wants to see in that area,” Mayor Kyle Deaver said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how this works out.”
A dance studio and restaurant will share the revamped block and are expected to open around the same time the work is completed.