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East Waco sees first concrete steps toward change

Posted at 9:11 PM, Feb 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-01 16:00:41-05

WACO, TX — Change kicked into high gear along East Waco's Elm Avenue recently, and some residents are worried about the neighborhood's future.

City leaders finally managed to turn some dirt on a street-wide makeover that aims to benefit both new and old residents.

Carla Dotson's "Boardwalk on Elm" food truck gives her a bird's eye view of East Waco's main street.

And in the last few years, she's seen plenty of change.

"A lot more activity, a lot more traffic through here, a lot, more people through here," Dotson said.

Now, her truck sits at the edge of a huge project that will give us a glimpse of Elm Avenue's future.

The city has begun a total makeover of the 700 blocks as a demonstration for what it wants to do with the rest of the street.

"This block will have nice wide sidewalks, it'll have new street lights, it'll have some pretty landscaping,” said Megan Henderson of Center City Waco.

If people here like what they see on this "model block," they can expect similar improvements along a wide stretch of Elm Avenue.

Workers are set to finish their makeover of one section of Elm Avenue by the fall. But the bigger project, the makeover of everything from Martin Luther King to Garrison Forest, will take a couple of years.

Input from workgroups aims to help guide the neighborhood back to its glory days.

"We're trying to keep East Waco thriving, surviving and providing,” said Jeanette Bell of the Northeast Riverside Neighborhood Association.

City leaders say this project stands alone from the many hotels and restaurants proposed for this part of town

Planners say when they build places where pedestrians feel comfortable, business usually flourishes.

"People need to know that this is for the community first. This is a project that began years ago, it just took a long time to get funding," said Henderson.

And Carla Dotson calls the work.. "a long time coming."

"We hadn't seen any improvement in, I guess, over 20 years. We hadn't seen anything that could bring more life. I think the sidewalk will bring more life, more walkability more traffic, more lookers,” Dotson said.

Lookers, she hopes, will become buyers.