Booming Business Changes the Face of Downtown Waco - kcentv.com - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

Booming Business Changes the Face of Downtown Waco

Posted: Updated:
(KCEN) - Developers hope to turn it into a destination. And the last few years have seen downtown Waco move in that direction.

Friday marked a milestone for the area: the one-year anniversary of the first First Friday, a push to get people to the heart of the city for extended shop hours, live music, and exploring.

Even in the last year, new businesses are driving more people downtown. In fact, if you haven't been to Waco in a few years, you probably wouldn't recognize downtown anymore.

"I really don't hate it as much as people thought I would," said Baylor grad student Timothy Orr. "Indeed, I've come to love it.”

"A lot of new places have come in that are really making Waco, you know, original," he said.

He's talking about places like Anthem Studios on Franklin Avenue.

The push for a better downtown is "really a lot of collaboration," said Peter Ellis, who owns the studio building and rents out rooms to creative people: artists, writers, shoemakers, whoever.

He also organizes First Fridays.

"There's not a lot of out-of-town investment making it happen," Ellis said. "It's a lot of locals."

And there's been a lot of investment. About a thousand new people have moved downtown in the last few years. So many, in fact, developers say the area now stands at about 98 percent occupancy.

"We need to add at least another 500 units, and probably more than that," said Waco's urban development director Chris McGowan.

Combine that with $600 million in new development in the last half-decade (including the new Baylor stadium), and it feels like a new city.

"In the sense that Waco, downtown Waco, looks completely different than it did five years ago," McGowan said, "in another five years we'll be able to say the same thing."

New construction is paving the way, but downtown still faces a big challenge.

"There's a lot of shops down here that people just don't know are here," said Michele Starr, who's lived in central Texas all her life and works downtown.

And there's a lot more on tap.

"I'd love to see this be the place to be after a football game across the river and just jump over downtown and hang out," Orr said.

That new Baylor stadium is big on the minds of these downtown developers, as are the plans for major riverfront construction.

Even though the last few years have drastically changed downtown, developers say they're just getting started.

There's a particular group of people who can really drive change in a city like Waco. Greg Draky, an app developer working on tools for small businesses, is one of them: a young professional.

"I see the Waco today as being kind of a raw piece of clay that can be molded into a really great community," he said.

And he's not the only one working that clay.

Jeremy Rinard shares space with Draky and a few others at Thinc Space, a business incubator downtown run by the Chamber of Commerce.

Rinard grew up here. "I wanted to make Waco the place that I wanted to be rather than try to find that someplace else," he said.

Slowly but surely, McGowan says downtown is becoming what the city wants and needs.

"You'll see more residential come up," said McGowan, "and as that continues to grow you'll transition into sort of a different retail market."

The more people who move downtown, the more the need will grow for places like grocery stores and convenience stores.

So five years from now, the area could be unrecognizable.

"Now is the time to step on the gas, not be complacent with the success that we've had," McGowan said.

And as that success grows, people head to downtown more, so there's more impetus for growth.

"Usually you're headed out of work, you're going straight home," said Starr, "but if you know something's here to see, makes a difference."

Also making a difference are those young professionals who graduate Baylor, and then stay right here.

"Downtown will definitely be a place I'm going to be sticking around," Draky said.
  • Latest NewsMore>>

  • McLennan County Drug Bust Nets One Arrest

    McLennan County Drug Bust Nets One Arrest

    Thursday, July 24 2014 9:36 PM EDT2014-07-25 01:36:37 GMT
    (KCEN) -- A drug bust in McLennan County led to one arrest Thursday evening. Multiple law enforcement agencies, acting on a federal narcotics search warrant, raided a home on Mackey Ranch Road in Bruceville-Eddy as part of a joint task force investigation.More >>
    (KCEN) -- A drug bust in McLennan County led to one arrest Thursday evening. Multiple law enforcement agencies, acting on a federal narcotics search warrant, raided a home on Mackey Ranch Road in Bruceville-Eddy as part of a joint task force investigation.More >>
  • Police Chief Says 'Irreconcilable Differences' with Mayor Over PD Led Him to Quit

    Police Chief Says 'Irreconcilable Differences' with Mayor Over PD Led Him to Quit

    Thursday, July 24 2014 6:43 PM EDT2014-07-24 22:43:54 GMT
    (KCEN) – Officer Michael Lugo revealed his reasoning to KCEN Thursday following his resignation as interim police chief in Little River-Academy. Lugo, formerly the town's reserve police officer, stepped down Wednesday after less than two weeks on the job as chief.More >>
    (KCEN) – Officer Michael Lugo revealed his reasoning to KCEN Thursday following his resignation as interim police chief in Little River-Academy. Lugo, formerly the town's reserve police officer, stepped down Wednesday after less than two weeks on the job as chief.More >>
  • Minnesota Man Says Southwest Removed His Family Over Tweet

    Minnesota Man Says Southwest Removed His Family Over Tweet

    Thursday, July 24 2014 5:51 PM EDT2014-07-24 21:51:52 GMT
    A Minnesota man refuses to fly on Southwest Airlines after he says his family was briefly removed from their flight over a critical tweet. Duff Watson was boarding as a priority flyer with Southwest when an agent refused to allow his two children, ages 6 and 9, who had later boarding times, to board with him, according to NBC's affiliate KARE. Watson said he warned the agent that he'd tweet about the incident, which he did. "RUDEST AGENT IN DENVER. KIMBERLY S. GATE C39. NOT HAPP...More >>
    A Minnesota man refuses to fly on Southwest Airlines after he says his family was briefly removed from their flight over a critical tweet. Duff Watson was boarding as a priority flyer with Southwest when an agent refused to allow his two children, ages 6 and 9, who had later boarding times, to board with him, according to NBC's affiliate KARE. Watson said he warned the agent that he'd tweet about the incident, which he did. "RUDEST AGENT IN DENVER. KIMBERLY S. GATE C39. NOT HAPP...More >>
Click for Local Doppler Radar
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KCEN. All Rights Reserved. Users of this site agree to the Terms of Service, Privacy Notice/Your California Privacy Rights, and Ad Choices.