Growing up in the Dallas area, it was a culture shock when I moved to Waco in 1995. I went from a huge fast moving city to medium size city where NO ONE was in a hurry, it took some getting used to. After I had been in Waco for a couple of weeks, I remember going to a local store to grab something. It was on a Friday, I approached the front door and a sign was taped to it that read "Closed early for long weekend. We'll re-open at 10 a.m. on Tuesday". I thought to myself, "Really?? Are you serious? They just decided to close up the store early because they felt like it?" Wow! I would've never seen anything like that in my hometown.
Before moving here, if you asked what I knew about Waco, the only thing that came to mind was the Branch Davidian standoff and that it's home to Baylor University. It seemed that not much happened around Waco. Well, except when Baylor celebrated it's first, much publicized on-campus dance in 1996. Would that qualify for the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game?
Well, that was Waco then and this is Waco now. A lot has changed in the last 19 years and more is headed our way. Old dilapidated buildings are being renovated, shopping centers are getting makeovers, new housing subdivisions are popping up & more people are moving to the area. In 2008, 72% of my home buyers were new to Waco - from all parts of the country.
The Waco area is in the midst of a major "renovation". Although the makeover started several years ago on a smaller scale, the recent success of Baylor athletics is propelling the transformation efforts into over-drive. For one, while driving through Waco on I-35, it's impossible to overlook the new big football stadium that's rising over the banks of the Brazos River.
Along with the new Baylor football stadium, The new "urbanization" (is that a word?) of downtown Waco is going very well; The remodeling of old, neglected & desolate buildings into restaurants, lofts & shops in the downtown area has breathed much needed life into Heart of Waco. Before the revitalization efforts, downtown Waco seemed lonely. There was no real reason to be downtown unless you were there for "city business" or if you needed to take pictures of your child on the Suspension Bridge before graduation night, but this is the Waco now. A town where visionaries see families, college students, couples, adults & children playing, working & living downtown. A place where you can enjoy the corner diner while talking with your neighbors, college students riding bicycles on their way to class or shoppers walking alog the riverwalk.
The Riverwalk and Riverfront Development
A MAJOR riverwalk project is in the works. Finally! We're going to utilize the under-utilized Brazos River!
The vision for the Brazos riverwalk project includes:
- Public Use
- Grocery Stores
- Entertainment (Movie Theater, Bowling Alley, Etc...)
After the tornado that ripped through downtown in 1953, it seemed that Waco never really recovered, but that was Waco then. This is Waco now.
Here's an awesome animation video done by a group of developers showing the vision for Waco and the Brazos River:
The lynchpin of the new riverwalk development, the new Baylor football stadium (McLane Stadium) is expected to have a HUGE impact on the our area. It's the largest project in Central Texas and is expected to be the catalyst of economic developement along the Brazos River and well into downtown Waco. With new hotels, retail shopping, restaurants and public use areas, it should provide plenty of entertainment for game-day crowds (and non game-day crowds). The new stadium and developments surrounding it will create more than 6,000 new jobs in the first year alone. Some facts for McLane Stadium:
- Current seating is for 45,0000 with the ability to expand to 55,000 seat capacity
- The stadium is approximately 93 acres and will accomodate 2,500 parking spaces and 9,000 on campus parking spots
- It will feature a 960-foot Brazos bridge connecting it to campus and feature a special tailgate area
- You'll be able to get to the stadium via water taxi. Fans will be able to dock their boats while watching their Bears. Other boat slips will be added along the Brazos, with exact number yet to be determined
Having the ability to travel to the stadium via a boat ride down the Brazos River, people are already planning for "sailgaiting". Now, that will be a blast!
We've received questions from Baylor alumni about buying property along the Brazos River, to have a headquarters on game weekend. Some people have already purchased large pontoon boats to use on gameday.
With the recent success of Baylor athletics (and record Baylor enrollment), the construction of McLane Stadium, the Riverwalk project and development and the revitalization of downtown Waco, the days of an under-used and long forgotten Brazos River will soon be a distant memory.
That was Waco then. This is Waco now.