Economic plans target downtown

Nick Berryman | Lariat Photographer
A riverfront development plan, devised by the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, would affect businesses like Buzzard Billy’s.

By Ade Adesanya

The Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce is involved in a development effort to revitalize economic activity in Waco. The plans for economic development include a five-year plan and a 20- to 40-year redevelopment plan.

The five-year plan is revised every five years to reflect changes in objectives of the chamber. Over the next five years, continued effort will be directed toward developing more direct connections between Baylor and downtown Waco.

“We are thinking of more ways to connect the downtown to Baylor, even if that means just having lunch in the downtown and heading back to campus,” said Scott Connell, senior vice president of strategic development for the Greater Waco Chamber. “We are looking at increasing activity in the downtown area.”

The chamber also hopes to increase downtown activity with the riverfront development plan. This strategic long-term plan will work toward commercial and private property development in the downtown area and along the riverfront.

The riverfront development is a priority of the chamber because it will attract private interests and businesses to the city, Connell said.

“Our comprehensive campaign for the riverfront includes activities along the river, such as boat ramps to aid transporting people around the downtown area using the riverfront, including parts of Cameron Park,” Connell said.

The chamber hopes to attract more people to the downtown area by constructing new buildings that will cater to commercial, residential and leisure needs of future downtown residents. These buildings will employ sustainable designs and housing, which will attract higher income earners who prefer the modernized downtown atmosphere with a riverfront.

Also vital to the downtown development plan is connectivity to a statewide transportation system that will allow traffic from Interstate 35 to conveniently access downtown residential areas, businesses and landmarks. The downtown area will also benefit from the proximity to the proposed high-speed commuter rail, which will facilitate easy access and economic growth to downtown Waco.

“Our goal is to promote the high-speed and commuter rail in Waco and we believe it will be an important piece of the transportation in Texas,” said Chris McGowan, the urban development director of the chamber.

The chamber is one of many stakeholders in the economic development projects that will transform downtown Waco into a modern upper-scale sustainable community. Other stakeholders in the revitalization process included chamber President Jim Vaughan, local residents, investors, Baylor University and local bankers.

“We are promoting projects which will work in line with other long-term projects as they get completed. We want to bring the private sector to the table and be sustainable while doing so,” Connell said.