A Brief Look at the Plan for Greater Downtown
I am holding in my hands the draft of Downtown Waco’s Master Plan. This may sound nerdy (and it probably is), but this is one of the most exciting pieces of literature to cross my desk in awhile. Not that it’s written in stunning prose or poetry, but because it speaks, in concrete form, to the very sort of things I’ve imagined for Waco since I arrived here two years ago. In fact, some of the topics in my blog are dealt with directly in this 130-plus page manual.
During the public visioning workshops last October, several themes emerged which are addressed in the Plan; namely, activating the riverfront and Elm Avenue corridors, improving transit, developing arts attractions, adding diverse housing options, and creating a lively and safe environment for pedestrians. In addition, the plan details methods for improving the sustainability of Greater Downtown, both fiscally and environmentally.
The most notable projects mentioned in the Plan include a large plaza between Elm and Bridge Streets along MLK Boulevard, a mixed-use landmark building on the SE corner of University Parks and Franklin, and connecting Heritage Square to the riverfront by opening space between the Hilton and Waco Convention Center as a pedestrian walkway.
Other ideas of interest include the addition of bike lanes along Fourth Street, Fifth Street, and University Parks Drive, as well as the transformation of Mary Street into a “festival street,” which means it would be designed to facilitate outdoor events such as a farmers’ market or arts exhibition. Further, the Plan includes a discussion of transportation options, from expanding current DASH service to facilitating passenger rail service that would connect San Antonio to Dallas-Fort Worth Airport via our downtown, and everything in between.
While visionary in nature, this guide is also practical, mapping out specific action steps to achieve development goals in order of priority. It lists possible funding sources, regulatory changes, and even a new Downtown Development Corporation which would serve as the organizational backbone of the Plan’s implementation.
The draft of the Greater Downtown Master Plan can be downloaded here.