Waco: Council Backs Mixed-Use Project Anchored by Short-Term Rentals
Featured Illustration (above): Rendering of a southwest view of the planned Heritage on Webster development. The artisan/retail/event spaces with a small cafe will face Webster Avenue (foreground) with short-term rental cottages in the back. Image: Sterling Architects
By Edmond Ortiz
Waco (McLennan County)–Waco City Council is on track toward approving a project and financing plan in which Elm Equity Inc. will bring 12 short-term rental structures, a coffee shop/bakery and more than 5,000 square feet of artisan retail space to the downtown Silo District.
The council voted Jan. 7 to approve the first reading of an ordinance that supports extending $483,311 in funds from the downtown Tax Increment Financing Zone to Elm Equity’s proposed project, Heritage on Webster, which will sit on a vacant tract at 823 Webster Ave.
The short-term rental cottages will be built to hotel building code requirements with fire suppression sprinklers in each unit. None of the cottages will have kitchens. Short-term rentals, also known as pop-up shop leases tend to be less expensive than traditional leases and are typically six months to a year in duration. Non-seasonal retailers may sign month-to-month.
Renderings and a preliminary site plan from local firm Sterling Architects, the project’s designer, shows all of the new construction built in a compact rectangular style.
A current view of the corner of Webster Ave and South Ninth Street. Image: Elm Equity
Two barn-like structures would house the artisan retail spaces along Webster Avenue. One structure will measure 2,600 square feet, the other 2,650 square feet.
The retail buildings will be separated by a short breezeway and a 960-square-foot cafe structure. A portion of South Ninth Street, which acts as the southern boundary of the property, would be abandoned and turned into a small parking lot for the new development.
Going eastward on the property toward Jackson Avenue, a covered concrete sidewalk would connect the cottages with the artisan spaces and cafe.
Eight of the cottages would be single units measuring 720 square feet each. Two other duplex cottages would contain two units each. Those duplexes would measure 1,440 square feet each.
The development would include landscaping, a water feature, a small garden and the preservation of a handful of trees on the site. There also would be a 840-square-foot stock/laundry building. The developer anticipates completing construction sometime this fall or early winter 2021.
Elm Equity is owned and operated by members of the Homestead Heritage community, an agrarian and craft-based Christian village based northwest of Waco.
Heritage on Webster would join the Silo District, a rapidly developing portion of downtown Waco that melds preservation and showcases some of the town’s history with contemporary local retail and dining opportunities.
In a December 2019 memo to the TIF board, city Economic Development Director Melett Harrison said Elm Equity originally requested $722,075 in TIF funding. City staff recommended grant funding not to exceed $483,311, or 15% of the total estimated project cost, for public improvements on the site.
City staff also recommended that the project be under contract within six months of final council approval, which is expected by the end of January or forfeit the grant. City ordinance requires a minimum of 10 feet between buildings on the same lot. The contract term will be 11 years, including this current year of construction.
Councilman John Kinnaird cast the lone dissenting vote on the matter.
“I don’t it’s good use of taxpayer dollars to incentivize any more hotels in our district or short-term lodging,” he said.
Preliminary site plan for Heritage on Webster. Image: Sterling Architects
Edmond Ortiz is a lifelong San Antonian and a 20-plus-year veteran in local journalism, He previously worked full-time at the San Antonio Express-News, and has been freelancing for outlets such as the Rivard Report.