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Waco: group hopes proposed plaza, walkway will bring more traffic to downtown

Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 5:22 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - City Center Waco has a new vision for downtown, including a plaza and walkway between Magnolia and downtown. The plan was approved Tuesday night by city council, so Wacoans and tourists will see changes as soon as next week.

The pedestrian plaza will go in the block of 7th Street between Austin Avenue and Franklin Avenue. It will have tables and chairs, to make it a place people want to be.

Wendy Gragg, with City Center Waco, said their goal is to host events here all summer to bring people, and their wallets, back downtown.

“We’re hoping to infuse people’s lives with a little bit of delight and whimsy,” Gragg said. “And I think we all need that right now.”

After a tough year for downtown businesses, Gragg said they want to encourage more people to explore downtown on foot.

They’re doing that with the plan for the plaza and a walkway from Austin Avenue to Webster Avenue.

In order to create the walkway, parking on one side of 6th Street between Austin and Webster will be closed. That will cause the street to lose around 46 spots, but additional parking will be added in other areas.

“We’ll have signage and fun quotes and whatnot, directing people to where they want to get to,” Gragg said. “And so I think that will be a lot of fun for people who don’t know Waco well.”

Gragg said the plaza can be a place where people can gather together and drive up business where it’s needed--in the city’s center.

“Our constant goal is having more activity downtown, because more activity downtown both helps our merchants, who had a really tough time,” Gragg said.

City center’s initial plan is a temporary trial-run for the project. It will last for two months to allow the city to look at what worked and what didn’t.

“This is an experiment,” Gragg said. “We’re calling it a demonstration in placemaking and then we’ll talk it out, see how it went, and what things need to be permanent, if anything.”

The project would cost $100,000, and it is being funded through the Public Improvement District for downtown. The money comes from extra taxes downtown residents pay each year.

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