The Tax Increment Financing Zone board on Thursday approved $534,000 for streetscape and façade improvements at 600 Columbus Ave., where a Waco partnership is planning to turn an old 20,535-square-foot building into a modern office complex. The TIF board also approved some offsite sidewalk improvements whose costs have not yet been calculated.

Marshall Stewman, of Deluge Holdings LLC, said the group plans to do a historically appropriate renovation of the 1920s building, a former Studebaker dealership that housed the McLennan County Appraisal District until it moved in 2009. The group is already demolishing the interior to expose the original pressed-tin ceilings and large open spaces.

It will remove the stucco façade and replace it with large windows and glass doors, shaded by an awning, funded in part with TIF money. TIF funds would also cover 600 feet of lighted, landscaped sidewalks along Columbus Avenue and Sixth Street and pay for the burial of overhead utility lines.

The TIF Zone uses a portion of property taxes generated from downtown properties to fund improvements in the zone. Recommendations from the TIF board must be approved by the Waco City Council.

Stewman said the group plans to put about $1 million into the project, and he already has tenant interest. He said downtown Waco is lacking in office space, and the project will bring a customer base for retail and restaurants.

“Our hope here is to bring in tech jobs and improve median income in the community,” he said. “This creates a really cool place where people would want to work.”

The project also includes a parking lot a block away on Sixth Street. Stewman had asked for funds to continue the landscaped, lighted sidewalk down to that parking lot. But City Center Waco executive director Megan Henderson told the board that the walkway was not a high priority pedestrian corridor and probably didn’t justify public spending on lighting and trees. The TIF board agreed to fund a basic sidewalk in the parking lot area but preserve some existing sidewalk on Sixth Street that doesn’t need to be replaced.

Stewman is also the developer behind Mary Avenue Market a few blocks away at 300 S. Sixth St.

J.B. Smith is the the Tribune-Herald managing editor. A native of Sulphur Springs, he attended Southwestern University and joined the Tribune-Herald in 1997. He and his wife, Bethany, live in Waco and have two children.

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