Downtown Waco to improve sidewalks

Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Kalyn Story | Staff Writer

With tourist attractions like Magnolia Market at the Silos bringing in 25,000 to 35,000 visitors each week, as the city of Waco reported in 2016, Waco’s downtown area is seeing a lot more traffic than it’s used to.

One area seeing the wear and tear downtown is sidewalks. The Waco Tribune-Herald reported that the city of Waco does not regularly maintain or fix sidewalks with the understanding that property owners have the responsibility to maintain the sidewalks next to their property.

The downtown Public Improvement District board has noticed these downtown maintenance needs that are not being met and has proposed an agreement in which the city of Waco would bring the sidewalks, lights and trees up to date. After that, the Public Improvement District would takeover the maintenance.

“The committee’s main priorities for direct action in 2017 are security and maintenance of downtown,” the public improvement service and assessment plan for 2017 states. “It also prioritizes the [Public Improvement District’s] advocacy of East-West River Improvements and connection behind the Hilton; sidewalks, lighting and maintenance; and the conversion of Franklin and Washington to 2-way traffic.”

In that plan, the budget directs $12,604 for landscape and maintenance to maintain sideways, paved alleys, planters and debris removal.

In a press conference last month, Waco mayor Kyle Deaver discussed the city’s economic growth and how Fixer Upper has impacted the city.

“We all know that Waco is a great city,” Deaver said. “We are fortunate that Fixer Upper, success of Fixer Upper and Chip and Joanna Gaines have shined a national light on Waco over the past few years. Now, lots of people in the nation are realizing how great Waco is and are wanting to move here. In fact, we are seeing that on a regular basis.”

Deaver also expressed his excitement with the number of graduates from Waco colleges that are choosing to stay and work in Waco after their academic career is finished.

Waco junior Hunter Solano said he does not think downtown maintenance is too bad yet, but with all of the increased tourism it is bound to get worse.

“If no one is in charge of maintaining the sidewalks, and they get run-down, it is going to give Waco a poor image to visitors and distract them from the great things our city has to offer,” Solano said.

Solano said he thinks the city should accept the proposal and take the burden of maintenance off of the business owners.

“This tourism is great for the city, and we need to be doing everything we can to encourage it, not discourage it,” Solano said.

If the city of Waco rejects the proposal, Solano said he thinks starting a volunteer organization similar to “Adopt-a-Highway” could help the city maintain its image.