A stretch of property between South 10th and 11th streets near Interstate 35 changed hands Tuesday, with developers planning a strip for retail and restaurant development and two hotels, including a four-story La Quinta del Sol, the broker for the sale said.
The transaction completes four years of negotiations and return trips to the drawing board for developers Shane and Cody Turner, Waco restaurateur Sammy Citrano and real estate agent Bland Cromwell, along with others involved in assembling parcels between South Ninth and South 11th streets, from I-35 to Cleveland Avenue.
This effort already has produced a new Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, which opened Tuesday; a new Panera Bread, which opens Saturday; and a Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers. Meanwhile, site preparation has begun on a Waco branch of McGregor-based TFNB Your Bank for Life.
Two dozen boarded-up houses and outbuildings have fallen, and more will give way to bulldozers with Tuesday’s sale of acreage near the sprawling Kate Ross Apartments at 937 S. 11th St. Two holdouts remain unwilling to sell their property, Cromwell said.
“Their site will become more valuable as the area develops, or they will discover they missed the boat. We’ll see,” Cromwell said.
Deals last week and Tuesday involved 11th Street Partnership, a group that includes Citrano, the Turner brothers and others who sold acreage nearest I-35 to yet another partnership that includes the Turners. Hotelier Raju Patel acquired a tract near Cleveland Avenue on which he will place a 110-room La Quinta del Sol, which he described as a top-tier concept of La Quinta. The dealing means another hotel developer, as yet unidentified, controls a tract next to Patel’s.
“I will have to get the site cleaned up and utilities installed before I begin construction,” Patel said.
He also owns Candlewood Suites at South New Road and I-35 and La Quinta Inn & Suites in Woodway. The new La Quinta will replace the corporate-owned LaQuinta on the east side of I-35 near Baylor University, Patel said.
That LaQuinta reportedly will be lost to the widening of I-35 through Waco, which will proceed in the near future.
The Turners did not return calls seeking comment on prospects they may have for the commercial center they plan to create on the interstate’s west side.
“We’ve got letters out to a couple of restaurants, but we have no signed leases,” Cromwell said. “We think activity will pick up as soon as we get everything cleared and people see what we’re doing. If the building is 10,000 square feet, we might have six or seven tenants. The people we’re talking to so far are national franchises.”
Cromwell would not say how much buyers spent on nearly 8 acres acquired this week and last but said the asking price was a little under $20 a square foot.
Patel said he has heard The Egg & I Restaurant, which has a location at 4600 Franklin Ave., will place a second spot near his hotel.
“This has been a great deal to be involved with,” said Citrano, who owns George’s Restaurant & Catering on Speight Avenue near I-35. “First, I like making things look better as you travel through Waco, and I thought if I was going to have more competition, I might as well get involved on the front end.”
Investors first began assembling tracts of land with the idea of attracting a Wal-Mart store to that location, possibly one of Wal-Mart’s smaller neighborhood prototypes that featured a grocery that would serve downtown Waco, Citrano said. But the project took twists and turns, prompting the group to change its approach and to make smaller tracts of land available to multiple developers, some of whom changed their minds and resold their tracts.
For example, Houston-based Gore Creek Partners announced plans to place a 75-unit upscale student housing project along Cleveland Avenue between Eighth and Ninth streets.
“But they got a little nervous about occupancy rates and sold their piece of land,” Cromwell said, adding the McGregor bank bought it.
“We don’t believe there is a full-service community bank in that area, though there are branch locations near downtown,” bank President David Littlewood said. “We want to emphasize this is going to be a full-service location, with eight or 10 employees to start, a four-lane drive-thru, lending processors, tellers and decision-makers on site.”
Near this area of development, Dallas-based DuWest Realty has recently attracted a CVS Pharmacy and an In-N-Out Burger. Behind the burger restaurant, the frames of two retail strips have been completed to accommodate Chipotle Mexican Grill, Pie Five Pizza and Smoothie King, among others.
Through it all, historic Greater Ebenezer Baptist Church, 919 Dutton Ave., stood firm and refused to sell.
“We made them a great, great, great deal, told them we owned all the property around them and even told them Wal-Mart wanted the property. We actually had Wal-Mart under contract, and they gave us an extension to get the deal closed,” Citrano said.
“But they said their forefathers had acquired the land for the church and they did not want to sell, which was their decision, and I respect that. I would never say what we offered, but I will say I’m pleased we’re getting restaurants and a lot of other things.”
No one with Greater Ebenezer Baptist Church could be reached Tuesday for comment about the proposed sale.
The other holdout in the area is a private resident Citrano did not want to identify because of privacy concerns.