The Waco City Council finalized agreements Tuesday that will guide riverfront development between Franklin Avenue and Interstate 35 for years to come.
The deals with Baylor University and Catalyst Urban Development touch on land purchases and swaps, use agreements for Baylor’s planned $213 million basketball arena, and the size and intended uses of additional Catalyst projects, along with plans for a city parking authority, a pilot affordable housing program and more.
City officials originally planned to book the Paul and Alejandra Foster Pavilion as an entertainment venue for up to 90 days out of the year, but changed course. Now, the university will host 10 Baylor-related events in the facility each year, outside athletics, and the city will hold up to 25 community events there every year.
“We have some ideas of what we think will work, but we want to get a sense from the market of what size concerts, and what kinds of concerts in terms of artists we could expect,” Assistant City Manager Paul Cain said Friday.
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Cain said Baylor officials will decide how to staff the venue during performances. During community events staged by the city in the facility, the city will pay for security, operations and janitorial staff.
“We’ll just have to work through those kinds of things with Baylor, but on any kind of performance, that will be 100% Baylor’s decision on how it’s staffed and who does what,” Cain said.
In addition to building the basketball pavilion at the corner of Clay Avenue and University Parks Drive, the university will contribute $25,000 in matching funds to a city parking plan and $10 million for the construction of a performing arts center over the next 10 years.
Baylor will buy 7.9 acres of land from a private owner, which will mean all of the land in the riverfront project area will be owned by the city or Baylor. To accommodate the planned uses, the city will pay $15.2 million to buy 4.8 acres of the 7.9 acres Baylor plans to buy. The city will also provide 1.7 acres of parkland to Baylor through an 80-year lease. As part of that exchange, the city will renovate the riverwalk, create a municipal parking authority and build a parking garage across Clay Avenue from the basketball arena.
The university plans to partially open the basketball arena for games by January 2024, and the rest of the facility by that summer.
The city also amended its master development agreement with Catalyst Urban Development, shuffling the order of some parts of the riverfront development that predates the Foster Pavilion announcement.
Under the new agreement, construction on two restaurants on the river will start in July 2023 and end in 2025. The agreement originally included development of a hotel from 2023 to 2026 along Webster Avenue, but because the firm’s development closer to the basketball pavilion also includes a hotel, the new agreement allows for office development in the place of the initial hotel site, and the phase will begin in 2025 and could stretch into 2028.
Waco Mayor Dillon Meek said he understands extending the project schedule because both the pavilion and the Catalyst project will bring heavy construction to the same few blocks of the downtown area, but he wants Catalyst to try to complete both phases more quickly.
“After having had conversations with Catalyst, my belief is that they will be working to work with us to try to bring some information soon on where they’re headed with this, and they can get it done,” Meek said. “But all things considered I’m excited for this to move forward and just hope that we do it as quickly as possible.”
Under a second agreement, Catalyst will develop a multi-use building by 2024 costing at least $25 million and including 10,000 square feet of restaurant, retail, and office space, along with 100 multi-family residential units with courtyard amenities. The current agreement requires at least three affordable housing units for a pilot program the city plans to spend $30,000 on per year for a decade.
Council Member Andrea Barefield said three units would be inconsequential considering the need for affordable housing in the city of Waco and suggested 10 units as a better goal.
“I understand this is a pilot program, but sometimes pilots have to mash the gas and go really fast,” Barefield said.