Sunday, April 20, 2008

Waco's Downtown Projects Coming to Fruition

Just west of Heritage Square, construction has begun on the million-dollar concrete slab for the Austin Avenue Flats. It's an apt symbol for downtown's redevelopment, which has been years in the making but is only now beginning to bloom. Tens of millions of dollars in new businesses, construction projects and building renovations are already underway. This year alone, downtown will see the completion of a new headquarters for the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce and the first 47 luxury condos in the $75 million mixed-use development around Heritage Square. Work will begin next month on a 368-bed upscale student housing complex as part of the same project. The $17 million renovation of the Waco Hilton will wrap up next month, and the $17.5 million reinvention of the Waco Convention Center will begin this fall. And the ripple effect is spreading several blocks up Austin Avenue, where an art gallery, a new restaurant, loft apartments, offices and a major bar/music venue are in various stages of development. The City of Waco and two downtown special tax districts have invested millions of dollars in infrastructure projects around town over the past two decades. Private investors have done multimillion-dollar projects such as RiverSquare Center, Behrens Lofts and the Insurors of Texas building. David Wallace's group also is developing the student housing component across Washington Avenue from the mixed-use project, next door to the Courtyard by Marriott. Wallace pulled permits on the $22.3 million student housing project this week and plans to begin work in the next 30 days. The complex is set to open in fall 2009. The five-story student housing complex will have several rows of parking in front, as well as parking under the building.

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