Waco: Design plans to turn old movie theater into fire station revealed

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) A piece of Waco history was reimagined Wednesday night.

The proposed 25th Street Station. (Photo courtesy of RBDR Architects)

Design plans for the old 25th Street Theatre and soon-to-be fire station were revealed to the community during a public meeting at nearby Provident Heights Elementary School.

The old theatre is in such poor condition it has to be torn down, city officials say, but the new headquarters for the Waco Fire Department will be rebuilt in its place...and in its image.

"It's going to look like a movie theater and really pay homage to the 25th Street Movie Theatre," said Waco Fire Chief Bobby Tatum.

'Oohs' and 'ahh's' could be heard from the crowd as architects presented artistic renderings of the art deco-style building which will house fire administration offices and a community room and a second building at the site which will serve as the new fire station number six.

"Hopefully fire station six and the new fire administration can just be a catalyst for growth in this part of town that really needs it," said Tatum. "I think it's an opportunity to take an area of town that's been overlooked and make it something we're proud of."

Architects said it was important to them to keep the theater's past memories alive in hopes that new generations could make their own memories there in the future.

"When we have a neighborhood like this that has a history attached to it, as long as we can preserve or recreate or bring that history even further to life, I think it's just a fun, great thing to do," said Keith Bailey, owner and partner at RBDR Architects. "We want people to feel great about going there and be inspired by going there."

A 72-year resident of Waco, Bailey was raised in this neighborhood and says the theater inspired him growing up.

"The inspiration is really to create another iconic destination for the city," said Bailey. "We think it's great that this community is now going to get the kind of facility it deserves."

City officials said the project is efficient, cost-effective and functional.

"It's a great capital improvement project that will also keep this neighborhood safe," councilman Dillon Meek told the crowd.

Dozens of stakeholders were in attendance including residents and business owners.

"I think it's awesome," said Raul Vallejo, owner of Vallejo's Auto Sales & Used Tired on 25th St.

Vallejo says he and his family have made a good living developing businesses in the area since 2009, and he believes there's a lot of opportunity there.

"It's going to help us decide what to invest in," said Vallejo. "Stuff like this is going to help us point to what we can do next."

The plans aren't set in stone; Vallejo was one of the attendees who filled out a public comment card for city officials to consider, saying he'd like to see the community room be bigger.

Also at the meeting were the firefighters from station six, one of the oldest stations in Waco.

"Our goal is to replace our older fire stations, so it was built in 1940," said Tatum.

Running more than 1,700 calls a year, Tatum says the midtown station is one of the busiest in the city, hence the nickname "super six."

"They have a Superman logo," said Tatum.

Tatum believes the new station will be 'super' in helping them better serve both north and south Waco.

"It's centrally located, ample parking, and so it's really going to be accessible to the citizens and you can see it from miles away," said Tatum.

While the building has to be raised, Bradley says they've removed the original sign and are hoping to salvage and re-purpose it.

After receiving input from the public, it will ultimately be up to the city council to decide the direction for the project.

Once approved, Bailey said they can start moving forward with the documentation to get the building built.

He's hoping construction can begin early next year.

"We're just excited to be here," said Bailey. "We look forward to it."