A hotel developer has bought a 9.6-acre tract in East Waco near downtown, Lake Brazos and Interstate 35, where it reportedly will build two new hotels.

The area roughly bounded by Bridge and Taylor streets and South Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard will become home to a hotel “with a concept similar to Indigo,” and a second hotel “that will cater to those with an interest in health and fitness,” said Megan Henderson, executive director of City Center Waco, which promotes progress downtown.

Henderson said the developer who built Hotel Indigo downtown bought the East Waco land but she is not authorized to name the hotel brands involved in this project.

“I have discussed the project with those involved, and I’m excited. I look forward to its completion,” she said.

KB Hotels, which developed the Hotel Indigo in Waco, has previously announced interest in opening a 170-room Cambria Hotel near Baylor University, but a spokeswoman with the local Indigo declined to comment on whether the recent land sale is part of that plan.

Waco real estate agent Brad Harrell represented Union Pacific in selling the land to the hotel developer. The land remained on the market about nine months, Harrell said. The asking price was $1.7 million for four tracts, “and the two largest tracts were sold,” he said, though he declined to name the sale price.

“Union Pacific would not have agreed to have the site broken up had it not gotten a real good number,” Harrell said.

The development group only was interested in land fronting Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, he said.

He plans further discussions with Union Pacific about the remaining tracts closer to Elm Avenue, which total almost 5 acres.

“I think this will serve as a major catalyst for the east side of the river and Elm Avenue,” Harrell said. “The properties, I am told, will face downtown and overlook the river and are within walking distance of the convention center.”

Dwayne Banks, who co-owns Marilyn’s Gift Gallery on Elm Avenue and is running for the District 1 seat on the Waco City Council, said he applauds news of the new hotels.

“I’ve been hearing about studies and attending meetings about growth on this side of the river the past 29 years,” Banks said. “I’m glad to see something finally is going to happen.”

He also said the city has unveiled a $3.8 million plan to improve bike and pedestrian access on Elm, which will eliminate some parking spaces near the front of Marilyn’s. He considered pushing back against the proposal, but decided the project would be good for the area.

“I saw losing a few parking spots as a small sacrifice for the overall betterment of Elm Street,” Banks said.

Plans have been announced for at least seven other new hotels in Waco, including two proposed as part of mixed-use developments almost directly across the Brazos from the site recently sold in East Waco.

Most of the East Waco site is in a Tax Increment Financing Zone, according to promotional material. A portion of property taxes in TIF zones are used for improvements in the zone.

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