By Holly Luttrell | Reporter
Baylor and Waco have always carried deep ties to one another. Baylor students move to the city for a number of years and to explore Waco in all of its shops, eateries and museums. There is a relationship formed, for better or for worse, between students and the city. Today, Waco’s identity is changing. New developments and companies are moving in, and the small-city image Waco there once was is fading away. Baylor students who entered the community within the past couple of years and students yet to come will experience this new Waco, but they will never know the old city that so many loved.
I admittedly have little room to comment on this subject. I grew up in Southern California in the urban, developed sprawl that makes up Orange County and Los Angeles. I love it. I also came to Baylor in 2014, when Fixer Upper was gaining traction and the city was already in the beginning stages of its evolution. I’m not one to discourage this change or wish it away; but, I do lament that future students will never get to know the smaller, less popular Waco before we shared it with so many new audiences around the world.
The buzz around Fixer Upper and the continuous growth of Baylor has spurred an expansion of Waco that is bringing bigger chain companies to the city. The Brazos Promenade, which is currently being developed on University Parks Drive behind Clifton Robinson Tower, will bring new restaurants, condos, a hotel, retails stores and meeting spaces on the banks of the river. Further inland on the corner of 8th Street and Franklin Ave. will be the newly announced Union Hall, featuring 27 new food spaces. New developments seem to be popping up all over Waco as the city continues in its growth spurt.
These new developments can mean good news for the city. There will be more jobs available within them and more options for shopping and dining once they open their doors. Even still, it is hard not to look at the construction site of the Brazos Promenade and see the old parking lot where the Downtown Farmer’s Market set up under the trees on Saturday mornings. We can celebrate the popularity of downtown Waco and the Silo District while still missing the quiet streets where Baylor students could meander from one abandoned rooftop to another before the Waco tourism industry expanded. The new Waco is promising and exciting for Baylor students, but the old is a fond memory so many students will miss out on.
The close tie between Baylor and Waco remains, but new developments have brought in a third party. It is now Baylor, Waco and the world— consisting of commercialized companies, tourists and developers alike. Baylor students will know Waco as a prominent city with new stores, restaurants and accommodations, and I believe this is a good thing. The old Waco is fading fast. It’s not a passing that should be mourned, but the memories of quiet downtown streets, a quaint river walk and a small city Baylor students could call their own is a good memory many hold dear, and many to come won’t have.