The site of the demolished 25th Street Theatre is up for a new $4.6 million fire department headquarters and station, with showtime expected sometime in the next 400 days.
The Waco City Council on Tuesday will vote on a $4.6 million contract with Waco-based CWA Contractors, Inc., to build the administrative offices and Fire Station No. 6 at 1006 N. 25th St, with a design that honors the old movie house. A construction contingency could bring the project to a maximum of $4.8 million.
City spokesman Larry Holze said if the council approves the contract and final paperwork is pushed through, construction could begin within the next month. He said the city has worked with CWA in the past and is confident in the company’s work.
The bid was the lowest of five, coming less than the city’s $5.2 million estimate. A total budget of $5.5 million was approved initially and included the demolition of the former theater.
The city council will consider using about $89,000 of the savings for solar panels on the building’s roof, Holze said.
The solar panels will be considered consistent with the city’s energy savings goals, Holze said. Solar panels should generate approximately 45,965 kilowatt-hours annually, or about 45% of the building’s electricity needs, the contract proposal states.
CWA constructed Fire Station No. 5, 4515 Bagby Ave., which was dedicated in October. CWA has also done major projects over the last two decades with McLennan Community College, Cameron Park Zoo, Midway Independent School District and Baylor University, among others.
In October, Garrett Demolition Inc. crews started demolition work at the 74-year-old theater and adjoining structures. The theater and other buildings were cleared away from where the theater’s sign had been perched over its box office.
Architectural firm RBDR designed the new fire station and administration building to resemble the old theater. The 25th Street Theatre sign, a longtime trademark for the North Waco community was placed in storage to see if the sign could be reused.
It was unclear if the sign would be reused or if a replica sign would be used to pay homage to the former theater. The sign remains in storage, but the city plans to have the new station stand as a tribute to the former building.
“The city was ruthlessly committed to that,” said District 4 Councilman Dillon Meek, who represents the area. “For the city to really begin exploring tearing down this facility we knew we were going to have to put in something that could carry the historical legacy of that space and be something current residents are proud of.”
Meek said nearly everyone hoped the building could have been saved and refurnished, but it was too far gone.
The theater opened in 1945 with seating for 780 and closed in 1982, then served as a popular dance club in the 1980s before closing for good. The city tagged it as an unsafe property in 2001 and it continued to decline amid ownership disputes. The city bought the property in 2018 with aims to redevelop it.
Meek said that as the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated the city’s agenda, the fire station project shows the city remains committed to public safety.
“As the realities of COVID-19 have been realized, we still need to make sure that fire safety and new fire stations are being constructed,” Meek said. “This is a big step toward that and I am very thankful we are moving forward.”
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