The Waco City Council approved a $5 million incentive package Tuesday intended to help bring new movie screens, a 16-lane bowling center and more family activities at the intersection of Interstate 35 and Loop 340.

The council also voted to support developers of two affordable housing complexes in their pursuit of tax credits from the state of Texas.

The incentive package would aid the $25 million project slated for the Interstate 35 North frontage road across the interstate from Central Texas Marketplace. It is expected to generate $28 million in annual taxable sales, and the city will receive an estimated $420,000, or 1.5 percent, in annual sales tax rebates.

Under the plan, the city and the developers would each get about $2.14 million over 10 years. It is unclear who the developers are.

The package will help fund infrastructure projects in the area, like street and drainage improvements, water and sewer utilities, lighting and landscape.

Assistant City Manager Bradley Ford said he believes the family entertainment center, which will include an arcade, virtual reality center and laser tag, will be “a regional draw in Central Texas.”

Last week, he told the Tribune-Herald the deal does not represent a new standard for incentives from the city’s economic development office but a strategic opportunity to improve infrastructure.

Cinema land

The city of Waco is seeking to withhold the identity of developers it has offered up to $5 million in tax incentives for a $25 million entertainment complex at the northeast corner of Interstate 35 and Highway 6.

The initial development on 32 acres would also be the first phase of work on a 352-acre site.

To qualify for the incentives, developers must complete design and construction of the first venue, complete the family fun center within two years, complete surrounding public improvements within two years, achieve a Planned Unit Development within eight months and enter into a Master Development Agreement for the 320 acres not part of the initial project.

Officials are also considering forming a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone within a Tax Increment Financing zone that would allow a piece of new property tax revenue to be brought back into the site for future development incentives. If that plan does not work out, the city would give the developer property tax breaks in addition to sales tax incentives.

Construction is slated to start this summer.

Affordable housing

The two housing projects, which would bring 179 affordable living units to Waco, are submitting applications to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for highly competitive 9 percent housing tax credits.

The council’s stamps of approval are meant to improve the applications and convince the state agency responsible for affordable housing that the city is eager for the projects.

“These two projects provide an opportunity for the city to invest in addressing one of the expressed needs at a minimal investment,” said Galen Price, the city’s interim director of housing and community development.

Price presented the proposal to the council’s budget and audit committee last week and again Tuesday during the council’s work session.

The first project would include 102 subsidized affordable units and 18 market-rate units in The Residences at Lake Waco, at 1550 W. Highway 6. The $17.5 million project would cater to seniors.

Residences at Lake Waco (copy)

A proposed development for seniors at 1550 W. Highway 6 would include 102 affordable housing units and 18 units priced at market rate.

District 2 Councilwoman Alice Rodriguez cast the only vote against supporting the project’s application to the state. She said the three-story complex would be too dangerous for seniors to navigate and that her own father died after a fall.

“I think it’s too dangerous for three stories, in my opinion,” Rodriguez said. “And I would not be comfortable with that.”

The council unanimously supported the application for the second project, known as The Reserve at Lake Shore, which is mapped for the northeast corner of 19th Street and Lake Shore Drive. The $15.8 million project would include 77 affordable units and nine market-rate units.

Lake Shore (copy)

A development at the northeast corner of 19th Street and Lake Shore Drive would include 77 affordable housing units and nine units priced at market rate.

“I definitely want to acknowledge the need we have for good affordable housing,” District 4 Councilman Dillon Meek said.

Meek said the council should examine what would be the proper ratio of affordable units to market-rate units and should consider design standards.

Rodriguez’s departure

Alice Rodriguez

Alice Rodriguez has spent 24 years on the Waco City Council.

Tuesday’s council meeting was the first since it became public knowledge Rodriguez will not seek re-election in May after spending 24 years on the council, and Mayor Kyle Deaver said during the meeting that he applauds her service. Formal recognition of her service, the longest in city history, is also being planned.

“I appreciate all my colleagues,” Rodriguez said. “It wasn’t easy. I love doing what I do. You guys and city staff made it so easy for me. But the time has come for me to step down. I don’t have my loyal supporter (Rodriguez’s late husband, Joe), and so I just felt I couldn’t do it. But thank you guys for stepping up. … There’s not enough words, but thank you.”

Hector Sabido, the only person to file for Rodriguez’s District 2 seat, will be sworn into office in May. Sabido is a sales manager for Prophecy Media Group LLC and board chairman for the nonprofit Inspiracion.

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