I’ve never been so inspired to be a Wacoan as I have been this week. On Wednesday an animated video (see more here) was released to the public, outlining in hopeful detail the potential of Downtown Waco for profitable redevelopment. The inner city, if you will, has taken a back seat to suburban growth, much in the way other similar cities have changed in the last couple decades. But, like many downtown areas, filled with the character of historic buildings and low property values, citizens have begun taking note of the potential, with the intent of revitalizing these areas to their former glory when dense development was necessary for practical reasons.
The video takes a fictional view of downtown in 2014, looking back at how Waco has morphed since planners and developers began investing in 2008. Viewers will see the new Beardome, Baylor University’s indoor football stadium, new museums, residential buildings, and a host of riverfront shops and restaurants on Downtown Waco’s yet-untapped resource, the Brazos River. There is a new arts district on the other side of the river, and a level of bustle not seen since the Waco Tornado.
Just an hour after watching the video, I stepped into the Waco Convention Center (soon to be remodeled, by the way) for the Greater Waco Community Education Summit. This first of 5 summits aimed to spark for our local education system what the animated video will do for downtown development. The mayor, along with a host of keynote speakers stood up to impart wisdom, sobering statistics, and hope for local youth. Hundreds gathered in smaller groups (I happened to serve on one of the 11 stakeholder committees) throughout the 3-day summit to address the challenges of our current system, as well as brainstorm ideas on increasing the education of our students and preparing them for post-secondary education. All this is being done to improve not only the quality of life for our future leaders, but also to improve the quality of workers that will be required for our workforce just a handful of years from now.
Despite the grim state of our economy, the locals in our government, our chamber of commerce, and our education system see a much brighter future for Waco. I’m thinking it’s no coincidence that I’m here.