Waco: First phase of Elm Avenue sidewalk project near completion

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) Danielle Young, the owner of the soon-to-be Revival Eastside Eatery on Elm Avenue in Waco is eagerly watching the sidewalk project the city has started in front of her restaurant.

She hopes to open the Texas-sourced and chef driven salad; sandwiches; burgers; beer; and wine establishment next month if the city’s first phase of the sidewalk project is complete.

She's not the only one.

Others interested in attending the Juneteenth Celebration parade on Saturday are also hoping enough of the work is finished but recent rains have delayed the project.

"It will be passable and usable. It will be a space to get out and watch the parade go down the street. There will be certain areas that are sectioned off but we hope to have the model block open so people can actually stand and watch the parade,” explained City of Waco Capital Improvement Director Jim Reed.

Tuesday, city staff; subcontractors; and the contractor of the $800,000 "700 Block Demonstration Project" were busy working as fast as they could to at least make this portion of Elm safe for pedestrians.

They were preparing to finish pouring the concrete to level road and finishing constructing the sidewalks.

The project also calls for new handrails, ramps for people with disabilities, and light posts, things the city hopes people attending the parade will notice and give feedback on.

Reed said he does expect the project to be finished by mid-July.

But this is only the first step in an estimated $10 million dollar overhaul of the area.

The second phase, he said, is set to go up for bids near the end of the summer.

This phase, once construction starts, will likely be finished in 2022.

It will run from Martin Luther King Boulevard to Clifton Street.

The city, state, and federal government will help foot the bill.

Reed added, what makes the project so expensive is the age of the road and its infrastructure.

The project calls for new water and sewer lines.

Young’s restaurant isn’t the only new business slated to open in the area.

A new market-inspired grocery store is expected to open.

A new hotel, which ground clearing has already started, is in the works and there have been talks of an apartment community.

All of these will put stress on the already strained water and sewer lines.

On top of that, the lines are decades old.

During construction, workers often discover the old train tracks that lie beneath a layer of concrete on the road.

To maintain adequate pressure in the lines, the city said these lines must be updated now before the entire road and sidewalk project is complete.

As for Young, who started becoming a regular in the neighborhood after dining in at Lula Jane’s, another café on the stripe, she’s looking forward to being part of the revitalization movement of this once neglected area.

“We know that there are strong roots here. There are tons of families that live here and a sense of cohesion and we know that we can look like outsiders, but we're hoping that we can really get to know our neighbors and also be good neighbors.”