Riverfront project gets funds to develop downtown

The downtown Brazos Promenade development is designed to attract residents and visitors to waterfront area businesses. Photo credit: Courtesy Photo

By Megan Rule | Staff Writer

The downtown Tax Increment Financing Zone board (TIF) has approved $20.2 million for the development of the Brazos Promenade riverfront project.

“It will draw from the existing urban buildings of downtown Waco, as well as the newer buildings along the river including the stadium,” said Paris Rutherford, principal of Catalyst Urban Development, the firm developing the project. “The goal is to have an eclectic mix of design and building forms that all work together with the landscape design to create a memorable place.”

Rutherford said the $20.2 million will be used to clean up the environmental contaminants on the site of the riverfront, create public improvements, waterfront improvements, new street and infrastructure improvements, a parking garage and a re-do of the University Parks streetscape from Jackson to I-35. The public improvements could include a Farmers Market Plaza, in addition to building construction.

“The Brazos Promenade is being planned to work well with what is already happening in downtown and the Silos District so as to create a more engaging urban experience that creates activity in the daytime through the evening for people to enjoy,” Rutherford said.

This project will create a new waterfront destination district to attract residents to this area of downtown Waco. Rutherford said the goal is to have a diverse mix of design and building forms that all work together with the landscape design to create a “memorable place.” The look will draw from the existing urban-styled buildings of downtown Waco in addition to the new buildings along the river, such as McLane Stadium.

According to the minutes from the Nov. 1 City Council Regular meeting, the timeline depends on environmental remediation but is expected to start in 2017. The environmental remediation is expected to take approximately 9 months, according to the minutes. Rutherford said the timeline of the project is 2017 through 2022.

“This is super exciting,” said Frederick, Md., sophomore Laura Casadonte. “I think having that in walking distance to campus really would help the social scene. Right now, kids from Baylor are scattered all over Waco when they go out, but this would allow everyone to be in the same place, because our campus really lacks that unifying factor.”

This project will go through three phases, Rutherford said. The first phase will work on the three mixed-use buildings at the northwest, northeast and southwest corners of University Parks and Webster Avenue to include residential units, restaurants, small retail and home office spaces. This is the phase in which the Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market and the infrastructure around buildings and the University Parks streetscape reconstruction from Jackson to I-35 will be completed.

The second phase will be building a new, upscale hotel between Webster Avenue and the railroad, by the waterfront that has restaurant, retail and meeting spaces, as well as additional waterfront improvement from the first phase. This phase also looks to add a restaurant venue on the west side of the former Brazos Queen Marina. The third phase will be additional restaurants, retail, parking, waterfront improvements and public gardens on the east side of the former Brazos Queen Marina.

“This effort reflects a true collaboration between the city and private investment towards the betterment of downtown Waco in a manner that helps further strengthen Waco within the region as a destination,” Rutherford said.