Go East, young man: Waco has power to revitalize other side of Brazos

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In recent months, the city of Waco has been pouring money into reconstruction and revitalization of downtown and its surrounding counterparts. The food truck row, the Hippodrome renovation and utilization of First Friday downtown have proven successful in bringing traffic to the heart of Waco, where small businesses have grown.

From 18th Street to University Parks Drive, downtown has become a place students and Wacoans live, explore and enjoy. However, on the opposite side of the Brazos, there’s a community yearning for the same treatment.

East Waco is historically one of the lowest socioeconomic areas in the city. With the exception of Elm Street, the neighborhood is home to crumbling housing, abandoned buildings and a food desert. The stigma has existed since before our generation that East Waco should never be visited.

The city has the power to change this.

After speaking with a couple of small business owners in that area, it’s apparent East Wacoans are aware of the stigma. While they’re hopeful the distaste will subside, they said they don’t understand why age-old mindsets are prevailing about the area.

Granted, the location isn’t the most bustling. Elm Street houses a couple of art galleries and the peaceful ground-to-table restaurant Lula Jane’s. While this street attracts people to early-morning breakfasts and quaint lunches, it’s the only area available for enjoyment.

With a city effort to expand on the other side of the Brazos, East Waco could sustain an area where people could take part. Eventually this would revitalize and bring revenue into the neighborhood.

Art on Elm is an event celebrated once a year in East Waco. With vendors from all over Waco and local businesses on Elm Street supplying the goods for everyone to enjoy, it’s become a time to enjoy the company found in the east’s community. They’ll be the first to tell you, they’re just as nice as the rest of the city.

This festive time is something the city should be investing in more. It ultimately draws traffic to the parts no one would have noticed before — a brilliant tactic used to inject revenue into the area.

With the placement of McLane Stadium on the east side of the river, the city has a jumping point to spur a chain reaction down into the community that inhabits the same side.

Let’s make use of the acclaimed Waco Suspension Bridge and give it a purpose beyond using it as a backdrop for pretty pictures. Let’s bridge the success of downtown revitalization with East Waco and truly end the stigma of keeping away from those who inhabit its streets.

If we start caring about what seems forgotten, its purpose will be unveiled as something beautiful — something that’s already appreciated by those who live and work there.

So, East Waco, here’s lookin’ at you.