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Editorial: Building a better Waco

Sept. 12, 1996


Building a better Waco

Support of local businesses, restaurants necessary to create campus atmosphere

The issue:

Construction increases around Waco as businesses and restaurants are renovating existing locations and building new ones.

Our view:

Students should support businesses near the University in an attempt to create a new collegiate atmosphere.

Waco didn't immediately appear to have changed at all when Baylor students returned in August after being scattered across the globe for the summer. It seemed to be the same ­ the same Valley Mills Drive. The same Suspension Bridge. Even the same construction on Interstate 35.

But now that we've been here for a few weeks, students are beginning to discover renovated businesses and new stores and restaurants as the students explore the city. That's right ­ Waco is expanding, and that's good news for Baylor.

Pat Nowotny, vice president of industrial development for the Waco Chamber of Commerce, said that Waco has experienced 'a real revitalization' ­ especially in the downtown area, where new restaurants and cafes seem to be cropping up on every city block. Nowotny said the expansion that's so visible in recent months is the result of projects started two or three years ago. Especially in the downtown area, the revitalization combined the efforts of the City of Waco, the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Waco, Inc., a non-profit corporation dedicated to improving downtown.

The new businesses most likely to appeal to students include Barry's Coffee Co., which opened in August on Franklin Avenue. The New York Bagel Cafe opened in April on Waco Drive near Mervyn's California. In fact, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, located just across the street, hasn't been around so long either ­ it opened only last September.

Coming soon: Ninfa's Mexican Restaurant will open this fall on Franklin Avenue downtown. In the same block, Burgers & Blues will open in October in a renovated warehouse next to Diamond Back's.

Nowotny said that new walking paths winding around the downtown area and near the Brazos River make for a 'friendlier downtown.' In a few years, he said, restaurants and businesses may even begin moving toward the river, making the banks of the Brazos resemble the Riverwalk in San Antonio.

Nowotny gave a large part of the credit for Waco's sudden stirring to Baylor's entrance into the Big 12. Waco has already seen the effects of Big 12 publicity and tourism, and the city will continue to benefit for several years.

Baylor students are fortunate to be living in Waco during a time of widespread expansion and revitalization. To perpetuate that growth, students should try out the new restaurants, search for new stores to explore and spend time outside the Bubble. Waco will expand as much as its citizens will allow it to, and Baylor students are more than 12,000 of those citizens.

At the same time, Waco is still lacking the college-oriented culture and entertainment other cities with Big 12 schools possess. Perhaps the new development in downtown will overflow and trickle down to the area immediately surrounding the Baylor campus. With students' support, additional businesses in the campus area would provide an entirely different atmosphere to Baylor days, nights and weekends.

Baylor's entrance into the Big 12 is a great opportunity for Waco, and Waco's expansion is a great opportunity for Baylor. Students should actively support the new businesses in Waco and realize that Baylor students could shape Waco just as much as living in Waco shapes students' lives.

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