Waco may scrap hotel project next to Baylor basketball arena
The city of Waco may drop plans for a hotel across from Baylor University’s riverside basketball arena that is slated to open in just over a year.
If the Waco City Council followed the staff’s recommendations, the city would still build a parking lot at University Parks Drive and Clay Avenue, but instead of a multi-story hotel, the planned 450-space garage would have space for retail around it and an artistic facade, as part of a plan Deputy City Manager Paul Cain presented at a city council meeting on Tuesday. The changes would allow the city to keep its spending on the garage at $19 million, compared to an estimate of $24.7 million for the more complicated version capable of fitting into a hotel developed by an outside company.
Cain said the garage and hotel originally planned would be significantly taller than anything around it, and twice as tall as Baylor’s Paul and Alejandra Foster Pavilion currently under construction along Interstate 35 between the Brazos River and University Parks. Baylor plans to host its first games in the arena by January 2024.
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“We cannot continue on the path we are on, burying the costs in the garage of a future hotel that will not look good on site, will cost a lot of money to build and does not complement really the site,” Cain said.
To be ready for a hotel, the parking lot would require between five and seven elevators instead of the two or three needed for the garage alone, Cain said after Tuesday’s presentation.
“You would have to unload these people quickly,” Cain said. “There would also have been more stairwells. You have to move people quickly in case of fire or whatever.
The cost of the hotel itself would also likely mean the rooms would be more expensive than others on the market, he said.
In July, the city selected Austin Commercial, the same contractor who built the basketball arena, to build the garage at University Parks and Clay, directly across Clay from the arena.
Removing the hotel portion of the project would simplify planning for other nearby projects being carried out by the city, Baylor and Catalyst Urban Development for its Riverfront mixed-use development on several blocks of city-owned land adjacent to the arena site. .
The city council is expected to vote on an amendment to its development agreement with Baylor to scrap the hotel plans.
Under the plan without the hotel, the city parking lot will be approximately 100 feet high, compared to the 90-foot arena, and will help account for up to 700 parking spaces for the arena, including 250 plazas that Catalyst plans to build as part of its waterfront development.
Cain said 450 of the 700 spaces should be available by January 2024, as part of the city’s development agreement with Baylor, and the city-funded garage should be completed by the following July.
Meanwhile, Catalyst’s initial development agreement with the city for several blocks of city-owned waterfront land called for Catalyst to start next year in a hotel along Webster Avenue. After Baylor announced the location of its arena and the city announced plans for the garage and hotel along Clay, the development agreement with Catalyst was amended to allow office construction instead. from the hotel’s website on Webster, the Tribune-Herald reported. in March.
Catalyst founder Paris Rutherford said Tuesday that he and his team “slowed down” hotel development when the city announced plans for the nearby Clay Avenue Hotel.
“We shifted priorities for this final phase and hadn’t determined exactly what it would be, but the original plan was for it to be a hotel,” Rutherford said.