Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Half Price Books?!

So...what's next, Waco?

Well, while the former H-E-B at S 12th St & Speight Ave recently got relocated and combined into the new flagship H-E-B plus! at IH-35 & Valley construction has been heavily ramped up around this burgeoning epicenter of Baylor college life!

This prime real estate just 3 blocks from IH-35 is currently already surrounded by Terry & Jo's Food for Thought, The Dancing Bear Pub, The House of Healing Therapeutic Massage, Scruffy Murphy's, Shorty's Pizza Shack, Melanie's Home Decor and Boutique and Valero...

And in addition, they are also close to completing a new 257-unit, luxury apartment complex called The View and another student house called The Verandas On Speight right nearby.

So, who is going to snatch this smoking new hotspot up???

Maybe Half Price Books, perhaps? It would be hard to imagine a more perfect fit for a used media & bookstore, than right smack in the nucleus of dense student housing & activity!! Talk about one massive, synergistic whirlpool effect within a walkable, target-rich, residential/commercial base!!

A student could literally spend a leisurely morning browsing through Half Price Books, read some purchased books over lunch at Food for Thought, get a massage at House of Healing, grab dinner at Shorty's Pizza Shack, chill at Dancing Bear and then end the night at Scruffy Murphy's...before stumbling home to bed! And all basically within a convenient block radius! BP

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Brazos Commons!

This humble blog was created just a few years ago to suggest & solicit conceptual & strategic master development at 2 primary nodes in Waco - the IH-35 corridor intersection with the scenic Brazos River and also Hwy 6 S.

Well, lo and behold...there is now a new $250 million Baylor Stadium being built in the NE quadrant by the Brazos River and a $180 million proposal under review to develop the rest of that entire area as well!

Congratulations to Rick Sheldon on his grand vision! Hallelujah!!!
Details emerge of $180 million Brazos Commons project

The sole bidder to redevelop the city’s stretch of urban waterfront is proposing more than $180 million of development, including some 800 housing units, five restaurants, a movie theater and a pier with a lighthouse beckoning travelers off Interstate 35.

City Manager Larry Groth on Wednesday released the proposal that Brazos River Partnership LLC submitted in response to the city’s invitation to develop the 16-acre Brazos Commons area along University Parks Drive.

Brazos River Partnership, which consists of Waco developers Rick Sheldon and Joe Beard, will work with Dallas-based Westdale Real Estate Investment and Management on the project.

“If we do this right, this will be an absolute transformation for Waco,” Sheldon said. “Our perception in the world will change, more people will want to move here, more people will want to come to Baylor, more professors will want to live here, and better doctors, better jobs for everybody.”

Sheldon and Beard already own the corner of Franklin Avenue and University Parks Drive, where they envision a major convention center hotel. But Sheldon said that project will be easier to develop once the Brazos Commons is well underway.

Sheldon and Beard this month finished buying out the Brazos Landing multifamily complex between Clifton Robinson Tower and Brazos 
Commons and will incorporate that six acres into the development.

They also own 2.4 acres across University Parks Drive, where they envision a 25,000-square-foot grocery store and other uses.

The Brazos Commons project would be phased in during several years, with construction beginning in 2014 on a 200-unit condominium tower overlooking the Brazos River. Restaurants, some apartments, retail, office and entertainment uses could be developed by 2016.

At build-out, the project would include 500,000 square feet of buildings, about two-thirds the size of Richland Mall. The project would include 500 to 600 rental units in addition to the condos.

The development also would include significant public spaces.

From that grove, a tiered grass slope would lead to a public plaza and an improved riverwalk, which would be elevated slightly so it no longer floods. A pier would jut into the water and allow strolling crowds a place to take in sunsets and even catch a riverboat.
Sounds FANTASTIC, Rick!!!

And for a finishing touch, how about a new iconic symbol to crown your centerpiece lighthouse with?? Like a neon blue river phoenix...arising from hard dust & molten ashes!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The New View!

Waco economy roars; homes snapped up

Spurred by a record-setting number of people working, the Greater Waco Economic Index posted its 13th consecutive monthly increase in February.

The number of people with jobs in the Waco/McLennan County 
area grew by 3,100 people between February of last year and this year. During January and February, Waco and nine suburbs and nearby cities had retail spending of more than $400 million.

builders were scrambling for home construction permits in February. The 54 permits issued represent the most for that month since at least 1999.

Sarah Roberts, senior vice president of economic development for the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber starts this year with more exciting industrial prospects than it had in years 2010 through 2012, “and I’m talking about companies planning $80 million investments and 300 jobs.”

“The may not all make,” she said, “but they are in the pipeline.”
The city is in the midst of a construction boom involving $500 million in projects either recently completed or now underway and officials say it is one of the biggest explosions of activity in the city’s history.

Progress on the new Baylor Stadium as of March 7, 2013.

More than 1,000 pilings have been sunk into the ground. Concrete is expected to be poured this week for a main deck next to the river. The southern side of the 45,000-seat stadium sits on a section of a lagoon that has been filled in. The $250 million project is being fast-tracked to open in fall 2014, and so far it is on target, said Brian Nicholson, a Baylor official overseeing the project.
H-E-B to build $20M ‘flagship’ store at I-35, Valley Mills

H-E-B has secured a permit to build a $20 million store on South Valley Mills Dr. expected to open in the fall and become the largest in Waco. Plans call for a 120,560-sf main store, a 20,000-sf retail shell adjacent to it, a fuel station and a car wash.

In 2011, H-E-B acquired and demolished the old University Middle 
School and bought houses and businesses nearby, piecing together an 11-acre site at the corner of I-
35 and South Valley Mills Dr.

The new store will become Waco’s “flagship” location that will include features not found elsewhere. Officials say the new location will have space available for use by restaurants and retailers.

“To confirm, H-E-B will build a new store on South Valley Mills Drive/IH 35 and is set to open in fall 2013,” Jones said in an email to the Tribune-Herald.

“I can tell you it is going to be a fabulous store.”
New student housing complex planned near Baylor
Feb 27, 2013

Called the View, it will feature 257 apartment units and bedrooms for 718 occupants, in addition to features such as a swimming pool with cabana lounges, a clubhouse with social lounges, an outdoor barbecue area and Internet cafe. It is scheduled to open in fall 2014.

“It will be the largest privately owned student housing complex within walking distance of campus,” said Brad Copeland with Dallas-based Copeland Commercial LLC, which is placing the View near his alma mater, along with New Jersey-based University Student Living LLC.

The View will be be built on about four acres bounded by South 10th and South 11th streets, Speight Avenue and an alley at the rear of the property.

Copeland said he bought the land from Bear Waco Land Investors, which acquired it from businessman Joe Phipps, owner of University Rentals and several apartment complexes between South Seventh and South 12th streets.
Copeland said he has worked about 18 months to make the View a reality.

“Baylor is not involved and is not the owner in any way, shape or form,” Copeland said. “But we are making sure the architectural design will blend in with the campus buildings. We wanted Baylor to be excited about it, and we have their full support.”

Baylor spokeswoman 
Lori Fogleman said, “We are supportive of those who invest in development near our campus and around our city.”

Phipps described the View as “high-scale,” and said he does not see it competing with his projects that likely carry lower rental rates.

“I’m inclined to see it more in line with Baylor’s dorms,” Phipps said. “This is going to be quite an expensive project, with that garage essentially surrounded by the apartments. This is the kind of design you see in larger cities, but I’m sure they have done market surveys.”

Sources in the construction industry said it is common for parking garages alone to cost $10,000 to $12,000 per space, and the View will have more than 700.

“But I think the View can become an asset to the neighborhood,” she said. “It’s close enough to walk to campus and within the Baylor bubble.”

Jeff Wall, director of housing and community development for the city of Waco, said the arrival of the View could serve as an incentive to other property owners in the neighborhood to consider improvements to their apartments and rental homes.

The View will open within a short stroll of the South 12th Street commercial corridor, home to H-E-B, Domino’s Pizza, Shorty’s Pizza Shack, and Terry & Jo’s Food For Thought, among others.

It will have a brick veneer and attractive landscaping, Copeland said, and will include a mixture of bedroom units with one, two or four bedrooms, each fully furnished and designed with open living spaces, full kitchens and one full bath per bedroom. It will have parking spaces for residents within the garage, and extra spaces for visitors and guests.

Common areas will have multiple large-screen TVs, a fitness center and tanning facilities.

“Our approach to the development of well-designed, purpose-built student living is that it should benefit the entire community,” said Joseph M. Coyle, president of University Student Living, which owns more than 45,000 multifamily units in 33 states.

“Students have improved housing options, which reflects well on the university, and our commitment to quality ensures an attractive, sustainable asset that enhances the neighborhood.”

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Waco Downtown Farmers Market

Farmers Market

Quaintly-nestled within a small grove of shady oak trees along the SW bank of the Brazos river (at 400 South University Parks Drive in the old RV park by the old Fire Tower) is the new, burgeoning Waco Downtown Farmers Market!
Overlooking the picturesque Brazos River west of Interstate 35 and within walking distance of Baylor University, the market is easy to access, full of variety and sometimes offers entertainment.

This scenic riverside market is now open year-round every Saturday from 9:00am - 1:00pm, showcasing the best local agricultural producers and artisan vendors from within 150 miles of Waco!
With warmer months approaching, Farmers Market President Terry Vanderpool anticipates more patrons, as well as a greater selection of the earth’s bounty, more local art products and even open-air concerts.

It’s an eclectic blend of vendors and patrons, taking their time to stroll through a beautiful plot of land. No one seems rushed. Everyone has time to chat.

“When the weather is good, people can really spend several hours there,” he said. “It’s a community-safe environment where you can bring your children and look at the various booths and enjoy life.”

The market draws 500 to 2,000 patrons each Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dozens of vendors rotate weekly, bringing different products to sell depending upon the season and previous sale successes.

“It’s going really well,” said Zacary Bryan, development coordinator for the Urban Gardening Coalition. “Even on the rainiest of days there have still been 500 people and many vendors.”

New vendors are arriving weekly, and inquiries about vendors happen all the time, said Vanderpool, a garlic grower from China Spring.

“Everyone seems to be happy with how the market is going,” he said. “There is nothing equivalent between Dallas and Austin that offers the same variety of meats and produce locally grown unless you travel pretty far.”

Typical products include: natural meats, dairy, poultry, eggs, veggies, flavored pecans, breads, honey, soaps, lotions, sarsaparilla, coffee, crepes, pizza, tacos, burritos, animal adoption, etc.
Ellis said he was delighted by the 15 or so growers and vendors who had come out despite the cold to sell fresh farm eggs, artisan breads, homemade goat soaps and organic meats.

In a time of lingering recession, this spot of 5 acres offers hope and opportunity to those with the desire to sell items they either grow or make by hand, supporters say. It’s an outdoor business incubator of sorts that inspires ingenuity, hard work and creativity.

Vendors pay $25 per day to operate a booth and an annual $50 fee. All agricultural products for sale must be grown within 150 miles of Waco. Only 20 percent of products for sale may be nonagricultural local products.

Organizers say the objective is to tout local goods and promote healthier products.

“We’re putting money into the local economy not only by bringing people downtown, but by supporting local producers and local farmers and that’s a win, win, win for Waco and McLennan County,” said McGowan
This is really a great way to spend a nice Saturday noon, supports local growers and is just a very refreshing break from the usual "artificial plastic" shopping/dining experience! Seriously. Enjoy some real food and real people for a change, folks...
When the Waco farmers market first opened Nov. 19 (2011)

vendors sold out and the public response was more than organizers had hoped for. Some growers had to return to their farms for more bounty, while patrons delighted with all the local, healthy options and didn’t seem to mind the delay at all.

The market’s early success is due in part to steady support from city and local business leaders who believe a thriving downtown farmers market adds to urban appeal. It’s a touch of the big city but with a friendlier, down-home Waco feel.

“Many people who come are in search of a more natural lifestyle,” Johnson added.

“If we all could eat more naturally, we’d all be healthier and it would be great for our world if we were all self-sustaining,”

“Creating activities for all of Waco in the downtown area is a priority for the city, especially when we can enhance the livability and add a venue of goods and services not previously available in town,” said Waco City Councilman Malcolm Duncan Jr.

“We tell lots of people about the Farmers Market. We want more people to come and be a part of it,” said Ellis, 29, of Ellis Isle Equities, which is developing the nearby Praetorian loft apartments at Sixth Street and Franklin Avenue.

The Waco Downtown Farmers Market helps add to the allure of downtown living, he said. “This is our chance to bring life and vibrancy back to downtown, so it has more of a city/community feel to it. We’re trying to do things to attract more businesses downtown.”

So, come on down & check it out, everybody!!! :D

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Central Texas Marketplace

This is a rapidly-developing area where Hwy 6 S intersects IH-35. Spots have filled up fast over the last few years, but there is still room left to grow. This is actually prime real estate at a high-traffic intersection that is already surrounded by an outdoor mall, numerous auto dealerships & a new hospital. It is also located closer to the wealthier suburbs in South Waco.

Shopping District
- Retail goods, eateries & groceries for a full day's pleasant shopping experience!

Existing & Proposed Attractions
- Central Texas Marketplace
- Chuy's
- Whole Foods

- Trader Joe's
- 99 Ranch Market

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cameron Park v2.0

Stickwork Or Metalwork?

There's been some great discussion surrounding the $25,000 NEA grant being used for a Patrick Dougherty stickwork installation in Cameron Park. Unfortunately, most commenters seem to agree that it's a big waste of money to pay for essentially a big brush pile. That may only last ~5 years, anyways...

Sadly, I have to concur. This does not seem to be a wise choice.

Why not spend the money on a more permanent and aesthetic artwork, instead?

Like perhaps an interactive "sonic sculpture" by Richard Serra? Not only is this visually aesthetic, but also sonically-pleasing as well. The interior of the structure forms a highly-responsive, acoustic echo chamber that vastly amplifies even the slightest foot stomps or banging on its walls. As such, it's a fun, multi-sensory experience, for all those who have visited it!
Anyone visiting Fort Worth, TX must see the Museum of Modern Art completed in December, 2002. The standing sculpture by Richard Serra, "Vortex" itself is worth the trip.

Made of 2" steel slabs 10' wide and 67' tall, twisted, curved, and assembled with a 10' opening on top, the total weight is 230 tons. It's a sculpture that can be interacted with, and when you walk inside it becomes apparant that acoustically it is a giant bell, and you are the clapper. Any sound, no matter how slight is immediately reverberated. Speech becomes almost impossible to understand because of the immediate echo. I repeatedly kicked the wall inside and produced a loud, sustained, and very deep rumble. A young man was sitting on the floor inside beating on the concrete and his shoes with interesting effects. It's one of the most impressive sculptures I've ever seen.
This would be a long-lasting, permanent landmark & tourist draw. Not to mention a family-friendly installation that would be regularly enjoyed by all of us locals as well! Or imagine a whole series of "tuned" sculptures that people could play funky, otherworldly sounds on!

Waco Metalworks

Another idea that would complement a giant metal sculpture is a whole scattered collection of bronze/brass sculptures.

This would be similar to all the funky cow sculptures spread throughout Austin (and other cities).

But for Cameron Park, we could adopt several, interlacing themes...

The primary overarching theme would be an "Enchanted Forest." This would evoke a magical, mystical, whimsical wonderland to capture the imagination of children...and adults' inner children as well!

Sort of a mystical "Lord Of The Rings" meets a whimsical "Alice In Wonderland" meets a prehistoric "Jurassic Park."

Imagine Cameron Park filled with swing sets, swinging benches, gazebos, fountains, reflecting pools, water spouts, sacred geometry, life-size bronze dinosaurs, a unicorn, Pegasus, trio of angels, winged gargoyles, elves, gnomes, dwarves, trolls, mermaids, fairies, chimera, qilin, fudogs, giant butterflies, toadstools, giant squirrels, giant foxes, buffaloes, sabertooths, a baby mammoth, giant armadillos, giant turtles, frogs, dolphins, etc.

How about just the top of King Kong's head poking up through the ground similar to Seattle's famous Fremont Troll?

Imagine pictures of kids sitting atop these eye-catching sculptures in Waco tourist brochures...

And now, imagine if Waco actually had its own foundry ("Waco Metalworks") to produce these works locally? Not only would that add many more industrial/artisan jobs to the area with the city itself as built-in clientele, but placing these sculptures around the park would also serve as great advertising to any visitors. They could have gift shop where they stamp out souvenir Waco coins and more...for additional PR & profits.

So, you could really kill 3 birds with 1 perpetual feedback loop here!!! We could help give Waco a unique, respectable identity that would support both local employment and stimulate tourism. So, why not replace "Wacko" with "Whimsical" - and create new jobs and tourism at the same time???