The Oak Lodge Motor Inn at the edge of downtown Waco will be demolished to make way for new condos and retail space, but only after current residents have found new places to live, according to the developers behind the project.
The Tax Increment Financing Zone board voted Thursday to recommend a $1.3 million contribution for the estimated $9 million development stretching from Austin Avenue to Franklin Avenue along 11th Street. Brian Mitchell and Julius Kramaric, a duo also hoping by the end of the summer to have the Pivovar brewery, restaurant and hotel finished a few blocks away on Eighth Street, are spearheading the project.
They plan to tear down the 72-room motel and replace it with a complex of 15 residential spaces totaling 23,757 square feet and three retail spaces totaling 8,710 square feet. The complex would be named the Dottie Oaks Condominiums, after Mitchell’s 6-year-old daughter, and with a nod to the motel. The TIF Zone uses a portion of tax revenue collected from properties in the city core to reinvest in the area, and the board recommends projects to the Waco City Council, which has final approval.
Mitchell said growing up in Waco leaves him with nostalgic feelings for the existing building, but between its asbestos, damage from a 2019 fire and its overall condition, it needs to be demolished. He said he plans to keep the three large old oak trees in front of the building untouched and incorporate them into a patio area for the new complex.
“We’re just trying to create a very inviting neighborhood-type feel utilizing a lot of outdoor space,” Mitchell said.
During the last city inspection of The Oak Lodge Motor Inn at 1024 Austin Ave. after the 2019 fire, the property racked up 32 code violations, with officials noting failing walls, foundation and ceilings, broken windows and doors, and a lack of carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.
The TIF board recommended the developers receive the first $300,000 in TIF money after demolition is complete, then start receiving payments up to the remaining $1 million after construction is complete.
Mitchell, owner of Mitchell Construction, said the work is expected to take about 12 months and start Aug. 31, but only after residents of the motel have moved into other housing.
The hotel is on the local tax rolls appraised at about $590,000, and Mitchell and Kramaric plan to buy it for $2 million, through their JKBM Holdings LLC. Mitchell said he initially planned to close on the purchase of the property in March.
“At that time, we came to the table and realized that there were still a couple more tenants that were not able to find sufficient housing and needed a little bit more time,” Mitchell said.
In addition to the $2 million purchase price for the property, demolition and remediation are expected to cost about $516,000, and construction is expected to cost about $6.8 million, according to the TIF application.
According to information presented to the TIF board, 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, ranging from 608 square feet to 1,390 square feet each.
The expected sales price for the larger condo units would be $452,000 each, and the expected sales price for the lofts would range from $204,000 to $312,750 each, according to the TIF application.
Plans also include on-street parking, bike racks and green space in front of the complex.
Mitchell said he sees the proposed condominium complex as a potential “welcome” sign into downtown for visitors, indicating they have reached the city core.
Robert Denton, who owns and redeveloped several buildings fronting Austin Avenue behind the hotel, said he had the property under contract for purchase about three years ago with similar plans to build a nine-condo complex, but the deal fell through. He said he always knew that even if it was not him, someone would eventually buy it up, and he is enthusiastic about the project.
“We’ve said jokingly that whoever did this, be it us or anyone else, the town would probably build a statue to them,” Denton said. “It’s been one of the last problematic properties in the downtown area.”
He said the building first appealed to him because of its history. The original Connally Funeral Home was built in that location, and the motel was originally part of a chain of 18 motels called Downtowners, which were all based in busy downtown locations. His other idea for the motel was to renovate it into a faithful recreation of the 1960s motel it once was, with period-accurate furniture and no televisions.
Denton said while researching the property, he learned the motel is home to a combination of longtime residents who work in downtown and people who come and go.
“It’s a transient motel,” Denton said. “All large cities have them.”