Riverfront JL1

The Waco City Council approved $20.2 million in public incentives Tuesday for the Brazos Promenade mixed-use development proposed for the stretch of city-owned riverfront seen here from across the river.

The Brazos Promenade now has a price tag and a timeline.

The signature riverfront project, with a hotel, housing, shops, restaurants and landscaped public spaces, could cost about $100 million, including $20.2 million of public improvements and incentives, the city’s chosen master developer told Waco City Council on Tuesday.

Those costs, disclosed to the public for the first time since the city chose Catalyst Urban Development as the master developer in December, didn’t appear to faze council members Tuesday.

Under a tentative deal with Catalyst, the city would spend up to $8 million in the first half of 2017 cleaning up the 16-acre site, parts of which are covered with up to 10 feet of dumped debris.

The money would come from the Tax Increment Financing Zone No. 1, which funds downtown revitalization through a portion of tax revenue collected from downtown properties.

Other proposed TIF costs include a parking garage, water and sewer infrastructure, landscaped sidewalks along University Parks Drive and Webster Avenue, and improvements to the Waco Downtown Farmers Market and other public spaces.

In addition, the city would use an economic development grant, known as a Chapter 380 agreement, to subsidize the private construction to the tune of $3.9 million.

The TIF advisory board will make its recommendation Friday on the TIF funding. The council is set to vote on the TIF and 380 grant funding, as well as a development agreement and 80-year ground lease, on Nov. 15 and Dec. 6.

Mayor Kyle Deaver said the presentation by Catalyst principal Paris Rutherford and Assistant City Manager Cynthia Garcia answered most of his questions.

“Obviously, the TIF board is going to have their opinion on it, but it looks like a good project to me, and I think the funding request is reasonable,” Deaver said after Tuesday’s council meeting. “Hopefully, they can stick to schedule and keep going.”

Garcia said the site cleanup and the improvements to University Parks Drive are important to do regardless of who is developing the site. Not counting those improvements, the total public contribution to the project is $11 million, meaning about $1 of public money for every $8 or $9 in private investment.

Garcia said in the first phase alone, the improvements are expected to bring in an additional $1.4 million a year, which goes back into the TIF zone coffers.

Megan Henderson, executive director of City Center Waco, said the TIF request is in line with what other downtown developments have received over the years. Until a few years ago, the TIF typically gave 15 percent of a project’s cost, though the TIF board has gone to a more sophisticated formula now.

“We’re really looking at a very ordinary TIF investment,” said Henderson, who had not seen the numbers until Tuesday. “It would really create something that’s enjoyable as an end in itself and is a connector between other viable parts of downtown, and that’s just the public spaces. Imagine there were no buildings there, and we said we’re going to improve the farmers market, make University Parks fabulous and build a parking garage for this end of downtown. $20 million would make sense.”

Rutherford said Catalyst and city officials will hold a series of public workshops in early 2017 to get input on how to develop the public spaces along the river.

Councilman Dillon Meek said he thinks public input for the public spaces is crucial.

“I think a lot of people are thrilled about this, but they want to know what to expect,” he said.

Tuesday’s presentation laid out in detail how the project would be phased, summarized as follows:

• Phase 1, fall 2017 to late 2019, includes $40 million to $45 million of investment. It includes 264 dwelling units, 44 units of live-work space and a parking garage of 170 spaces split between private and public use.

The public costs include $3.7 million for the parking garage, $1.8 million for utilities and $800,000 for the farmers market. It includes $2 million for pedestrian-friendly improvements to University Parks Drive, including lighting, streetscape, sidewalks, head-in street parking and wider medians. The improvements would extend from Interstate 35 to Franklin Avenue.

• Phase 2, mid-2018 to late 2020, includes up to $45 million in private investment. It includes a 10-story, 110-room full-service hotel with a conference center and restaurant. Also on tap is another destination restaurant and an outdoor stage.

Public costs include $2 million for waterfront improvements, including electrical line relocation, plus streets and sidewalks around the hotel.

• Phase 3, early 2021 to mid-2022, has $8 million to $12 million in private investment. That includes food halls or retail shops and riverfront recreation concessions near the old Brazos Queen landing.

Public investment would be $1.2 million, including an outdoor event and recreation space and gardens.

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