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City of Waco set to sell $2 million property to the Salvation Army

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The Waco City Council is set Tuesday to approve selling a 10-acre lot at 1324 La Salle Ave. for $2 million to The Salvation Army, which plans to consolidate its homeless shelters and other services there.

The city bought the land in January with the intention of selling the land to the charity, which has outgrown its downtown facilities. The council granted the Salvation Army a special permit that outlines requirements for the land.

Maj. Jim Taylor, commanding officer for The Salvation Army in McLennan County, said there’s no timeline or price tag on the project yet. The finished product will consolidate the organization’s social, housing and meal services to one location.

“I don’t have an architect’s agreement yet, so everything that we have planned we don’t really have a firm dollar number,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the organization’s church could be the first building among several that residents will be able to see when driving down La Salle Avenue. Also set to be housed on the lot are administration and the Center of Hope, which will consolidate the organization’s social services, all of its sheltering services and the community kitchen, he said.

The move will free up a cluster of Salvation Army downtown buildings, including Sally’s House and the Red Shield Men’s Lodge, both homeless shelters.

The new development will expand transitional housing The Salvation Army is currently able to provide to homeless families, growing from just three family-sized apartments at Sally’s House to as many as 15 transitional apartments, Taylor said. He said the transitional shelter will provide a space for people to settle while they get back on their feet.

“There’s a great need in Waco to have more apartments for homeless families,” Taylor said.

Although the new location on La Salle Avenue will consolidate most of the Salvation Army’s services to one place, it will also distance people in need from other resources, many of which are housed downtown. Moving the services could double the distance some people travel every day for meals and other vital resources.

The city’s special permit lists transportation as a condition for the transitional housing to land on La Salle Avenue, stipulating a Waco Transit stop to be created on or near 12th Street. Taylor said there has even been discussion about the possibility of adding the stop on The Salvation Army’s campus.

Onsite security is another condition listed in the special permit, calling for the construction of a police substation or reporting station at the new facility. Taylor said not only is 24-hour security important for The Salvation Army’s safety, but it can also bring comfort to the surrounding neighborhood.

Taylor said the next steps for the organization are to finalize drawings and bid out for a contractor, but it could take up to four years before the organization will be ready to make the transition.

“It’s not anything that’s going to happen quickly,” Taylor said.

He said The Salvation Army will start a campaign soon to raise money for the project. He said there are currently no plans for what will happen to the existing downtown buildings other than selling them, and he hopes the proceeds will help fund the project going forward.

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Kourtney David is a Baylor University graduate from Springfield, Missouri. She joined the Tribune-Herald staff in July 2022.

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