Vote approved despite close split

3+ minute read

Rendering for how a street would look in the Riverway neighborhoods.

Riverway Development Rendering

Example rendering provided by Caldwell to show what the streets could look like.

The Waco City Council is considering allocating $130 million in public funds towards infrastructure development in the Riverway project. Despite a few council members saying a proposal of this scale calls for more time to assess the full effects, the first vote passed 3-2. But it isn’t an enthusiastic “Yes!” just yet. The council will need to hold a second vote before the funding can be approved.

The massive 1,887-home community in question is planned for a 521-acre site between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Lake Shore. This project, proposed by Houston-based real estate firm Caldwell Companies, has garnered support from city officials, who believe it will address Waco’s housing needs and boost economic growth downtown.

Caldwell seeks funding from Tax Increment Financing Zone No. 4 (TIF 4), a zone established in 2022 to spur economic development in the area. The zone utilizes excess property tax revenue generated within its boundaries, which includes contributions from McLennan County, McLennan Community College, and the City of Waco. The funding would be used to pay for public infrastructure at the Riverway site, including water and wastewater lines, drainage systems, and public parks. Upon completion in 2037, Caldwell estimates the property value to jump from its current $530,000 to a staggering $620 million (not accounting for inflation).

What Would This Development Mean For The Surrounding Area?

Caldwell emphasizes providing a variety of housing options near downtown Waco while preserving the natural beauty of the Brazos River. They draw inspiration from Towne Lake, a development near Houston built around a man-made lake. Similar to Towne Lake, Riverway will feature a private marina, public parks, and walking trails.

Additionally, commercial and retail spaces are planned for the site’s outer areas along Lake Shore Drive. The City of Waco is also exploring options to connect Riverway’s walking trails with Brazos Park East by constructing sidewalks on the MLK bridge. While the project is expected to take roughly 15 years to complete, its potential impact is significant. Initial estimates place home prices in Riverway between $300,000 and $400,000, subject to change due to inflation and construction costs.

Riverway Map

A map supplied by Caldwell for their TIF application.

One potential concern raised during discussions was the impact on the Bosqueville Independent School District, within whose boundaries Riverway falls. Superintendent James Skeeler expressed anxieties about the school’s capacity to handle a potential surge in student enrollment due to the new development, which is exacerbated by a lack of funding. However, Skeeler noted that he wasn’t against it, just that he hopes for more communication moving forward.

The Council also approved the creation of a zoning overlay district specifically for Riverway, which will establish design standards for the homes and streets within the development.

A date has yet to be released for the second round of voting to finalize the agreement.

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