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Mike Copeland: Oak Lodge demolition permit; Patent law war room; Standalone ERs busy; Main Event progress

Mike Copeland: Oak Lodge demolition permit; Patent law war room; Standalone ERs busy; Main Event progress

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Mitchell Construction has secured a permit to demolish the Oak Lodge Motor Inn, 1024 Austin Ave., paving the way for a $9 million project called Dottie Oaks Condominiums, named after contractor Brian Mitchell’s daughter.

The old property has become a flashpoint for people concerned about the plight of the homeless in Waco and others without the financial means to pay rent. Oak Lodge Motor Inn has been an option for this population, though it has fallen into disrepair. An inspection after a fire in 2019 identified 32 code violations, with officials noting problems with walls, ceilings and the foundation, broken windows and doors, and a lack of carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.

Local social service agencies and nonprofits have rallied to help residents find alternate housing, with developers first announcing they would like to begin the demolition and construction process on Aug. 31, which is Tuesday.

Mitchell Construction did not return calls seeking comment on its timetable.

Bobby Horner, city of Waco public spokesperson, confirmed Mitchell Construction secured the demolition permit Aug. 16.

Mitchell and Julius Kramaric announced they would buy the 72-room hotel for $2 million. Demolition and remediation would cost about $516,000, and construction would cost an estimated $6.8 million, according to the developers’ application for Tax Increment Financing assistance.

Plans for the complex include a retail shell at the corner of 11th Street and Franklin Avenue; two retail shells at the corner of 11th Street and Austin Avenue; seven two-story, 2,260-square-foot condos with patios, balconies and private garages between the retail “end caps;” and eight loft-style spaces above the retail units, each ranging from 608 square feet to 1,390 square feet.

The large condo units would sell for $452,000 each. The expected sales price for the lofts would range from $204,000 to $312,750 each, according to the TIF application.

Patent law war room

High-profile law firms continue to create a presence in Waco now that U.S. District Judge Alan Albright’s Western District of Texas has become a magnet for major patent-related suits. A quarter of these suits now end up in Albright’s federal court in Waco, said Rhonda Reddick, a consultant with Androvett, a legal media consulting firm with Texas offices.

Reddick said the firm Winston & Strawn has taken space in the National Lloyds Building in downtown Waco. The firm made the move “to further deepen its expertise and insights on all things patent as seen through the lenses of the Western District and Judge Albright,” Reddick said in a press release.

“More of a war room than a traditional office, the litigation work space … provides the attorneys and clients a permanent, strategic outpost just steps away from the courtroom when appearing before Judge Albright,” whose court is in the federal facility at 800 Franklin Ave.

Chicago-based Winston & Strawn was founded in 1853 and has almost 1,000 attorneys in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, according to its website.

Standalone ERs busy

Paul Hamilton, an executive with Premier ER & Urgent Care, with locations in Waco, Woodway, Temple and San Marcos, had plenty to talk about Thursday when business leaders met by Zoom to discuss the local economy.

“This month, August, our four clinics are bursting at the seams,” Hamilton said. “Our system is the busiest it has ever been.”

He said COVID-19’s resurgence is creating a trickle-down effect. Hospital beds are full. Ambulance bays are backed up. Emergency rooms are bulging. So people with health issues perhaps not COVID-19-related take their business to Premier ER instead. Hamilton said Premier makes hospital referrals in dire circumstances. Recently, the search for a hospital system willing and able to accept a referral ended in El Paso, Hamilton said.

The Premier ER website shows the company is attempting to fill 19 positions at its four clinics, with sign-on bonuses commonplace.

Back-to-school spending

Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $848.90 on school items, which is $59 more than last year, according to a report from the National Retail Federation.

In a statement whose implications may have changed, considering the recent surge in COVID-19 cases forcing tough decisions, federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said, “The pandemic forced parents and their school-aged children to quickly adapt to virtual learning, and they did it with an incredible amount of resolve and flexibility. We enter the new school year with plans to return to the classroom and retailers are prepared to help Americans find and purchase whatever they need to make this transition as seamless as possible.”

Total back-to-school spending will reach a record $37.1 billion, up from $33.9 billion last year “and an all-time high in the survey’s history.”

The federation predicts back-to-college spending to reach $71 billion.

Main Event progress

It was in March when Main Event broke ground on a 48,000-square-foot entertainment center along Interstate 35 near New Road. Now passersby tell me the building seemed to materialize out of nowhere.

Seemingly overnight, site work became a structure. But do not expect a grand-opening just as quickly. Main Event spokesperson Doug Terfehr told the Tribune-Herald to expect an arrival early next year. Main Event will offer bowling, billiards, laser tag, gravity ropes, zipline, more than 120 arcade games, 25-plus virtual reality experiences, and a full restaurant and bar.

Main Event will join a 14-screen Cinemark movie theater and an already open Topgolf in anchoring the 143-acre Cottonwood Creek Market.

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