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Waco Industrial Foundation buys 635 acres in multimillion-dollar deal

Waco Industrial Foundation buys 635 acres in multimillion-dollar deal

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The Waco Industrial Foundation, which provides land to industrial prospects typically at below-market prices, has bought 
635 acres in Robinson that will give local officials more options when they pursue prospects for Central Texas now and in the 
future.

WIF now manages a $37.5 million real estate portfolio with more than 1,200 acres in local industrial parks.

This acquisition increases its inventory by more than 50 percent, meaning the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce and regional industry recruiters will have more land with which to secure deals.

The tract, previously owned by the Bowden family, is located at the southeast corner of Interstate 35 and South Loop 340/State Highway 6, across the interstate from the new Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center. It has 2,300 feet of interstate frontage and 1,400 feet of frontage along Loop 340.

Asking price for the tract was $15 million, but officials declined to comment on exactly how much WIF paid.

“The acquisition of this land is a huge event, allowing the Waco Industrial Foundation the ability to provide quality sites for prospective industries to locate or expand in McLennan County,” said Bob Davis, president of the WIF, in a prepared statement, adding it will serve high-profile tenants that desire visibility on I-35.

WIF projects

WIF has provided land for a variety of job-stimulating projects, including the Sanderson Farms chicken processing plant and hatchery at 5300 U.S. Highway 84 in Waco; the Caterpillar Work Tools plant at 2000 Texas Central Parkway; and the 158-acre Legends Crossing development that included the new Hillcrest hospital campus.

A representative of the WIF, Bill Clifton, serves on the Waco-McLennan County Economic Development Corp. board with Waco City Manager Larry Groth and McLennan County Judge Scott Felton.

The board makes recommendations on which industrial prospects should receive incentive funds from the city and 
county.

“From a planning perspective, this property has everything you need to develop: visibility, a poised entrance into the Robinson/Waco area, interstate highway frontage and available water and wastewater,” Robinson City Manager Bob Cervenka said in a statement.

“We, at the city of Robinson, look forward to working with the Waco Industrial Foundation and the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce on putting together the best plan for development for the property.”

Waco real estate agent Bland Cromwell brokered the sale with Jason Cooper of Cooper Real Estate Advisors of Dallas.

“We’ve been working on this transaction four to six months,” Cromwell said in an interview. “A lot of companies think visibility is critical, and the industrial foundation had little or no frontage on Interstate 35. It had other great tracts, but they were inside the (industrial) 
park.”

Companies expanding

Kris Collins, the Waco 
chamber’s director of business retention and expansion, said in a recent interview at least 10 companies, most of them involved in manufacturing, are looking to expand their Waco operations or open new plants.

She said “the pump is primed” for major industrial announcements.

She said Friday the industrial foundation did not necessarily buy the land with a company in mind, but said prospects in the pipeline may have access to it.

“More than anything, this is part of our long-term strategy of having assets available to prospects we are pursuing,” she said.

A tentative site plan the WIF has prepared for the 635 acres includes not only industrial tracts but nearly 170 acres for commercial and light commercial use.

“There is potential for commercial development there, yes, but we’re not talking about anything immediate,” Collins said. “An industrial prospect would be given preference.”

Cromwell said the Bowden family still owns about 350 acres across Loop 340 from the WIF site, and he will market it for commercial 
use.

Davis said in a statement the transaction would not have been possible without the Bowden family’s “desire to see the land developed in a manner that would have a positive impact on the future growth of this area and their agreeing to the sale of the land.”

“My dad started buying land at that intersection over 20 years ago,” said family spokesman Jeff Bowden, who released a statement.

“In January, Bland Cromwell and I started talking in earnest about who’d be the best developer for the Robinson tract. The whole process of dealing with WIF has been a joy. At closing, I gave Bob Davis a bucket of dirt from the Robinson tract. I wrote on the bucket, ‘It’s an honor to pass our land to you.’ ”

Since 1958, WIF has developed more than 5,000 acres of business parks locally, as it acquired land and made it available to employers.

These parks have attracted more than 110 companies representing more than 16,000 jobs and 17 million square feet of development in Greater Waco, the foundation reported.

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