Dallas-based Leon Capital Group continues to demolish the old University High School and Sul Ross Elementary campuses in Waco, and a company official said Wednesday a Chick-fil-A restaurant likely will go up on the Sul Ross site at South Seventh Street and the Interstate 35 frontage road.
Will Tolliver said in a phone interview that the chain known for its “Eat Mor Chikin” advertising campaign has entered into a contract to acquire about 1.5 acres in the 3.55-acre site, though the deal has not closed and Tolliver said he does not yet know a timetable for getting the eatery built.
“We are very pleased to be working with them, and I think they will do very well there,” Tolliver said.
Leon Capital paid $1.4 million for the acreage, which the Waco Independent School District sold as surplus property.
Tolliver said Leon Capital also is negotiating to sell to Whataburger a tract it acquired from WISD behind the Whataburger restaurant at 928 S. Seventh St.
“That was faculty parking (for Sul Ross Elementary), and it is my understanding Whataburger would like to build a more current restaurant there,” said Waco Realtor Chris Gutierrez, who represented Leon Capital in its negotiations with the school district and its purchase of the Sul Ross and University High sites.
The Dallas group “thought the construction of a new Whataburger would enhance their location across Seventh Street,” he added.
Jenny Gregorcyk, in the Whataburger media relations department, was pursuing a company response late Wednesday.
Shane Turner, who is placing a 215-town house development called Tinsley Place near the Sul Ross site, welcomed the news of Chick-fil-A’s interest.
“It is definitely better than having an abandoned school next door,” he said. “Seriously, everything helps, especially something as popular as Chick-fil-A.”
Turner said 25 of the 30 town houses in the first phase of Tinsley Place are now filled, and he has begun pre-leasing for the 75-unit second phase. Eventually, he said, he will spend $10 million to $15 million placing more than 200 units between South Seventh and South Eighth streets, Cleveland Avenue and Clay Avenue.
“I think Chick-fil-A will do phenomenally,” Gutierrez said. “Go by any of the local locations around lunchtime, and you will see pent-up demand. Consider that the South Waco location will be near Baylor University and the housing complex, and you can imagine the crowds it will attract.”
Chick-fil-A operates other locations at Richland Mall, in the Student Union Building at Baylor and at 4310 Franklin Ave.
Former UHS campus
Leon Capital Group also has begun plowing under the former 16-acre University High campus, for which it paid $3.5 million.
The group reportedly wants to place stores and restaurants at South Valley Mills Drive and Bagby Avenue, near an H-E-B Plus! grocery that opened in August.
“We have nothing concrete or finalized for that site,” Tolliver said. “We did want to get demolition out of the way.”
Responding to questions posed by the Tribune-Herald in September, Sterling Hillman, vice president of retail development for Leon Capital, said, “The H-E-B synergy definitely adds to the attractiveness of an already appealing site.”
He said the company would prefer a timely buildout, not one that lasts “over several phases.”
Waco Realtor Jim Peevey, who represented the school district in its dealings with Leon Capital, said deed restrictions forbid Leon Capital from placing a grocery-related user on the site of the former high school for 10 years because H-E-B built on property it bought from WISD.
Leon Capital also acquired from WISD the former Texas Playhouse Theater at 201 S. Jack Kultgen Expressway.