|April 13, 2016||Comments Closed|
Original Article by Mike Copeland of WacoTrib.com
New restaurant, retailer, church on stretch of Bosque Boulevard
A stretch of Bosque Boulevard near the Extraco Events Center is experiencing a renaissance, with a vacant bowling alley becoming a church and a nearby shopping enclave getting a new look and new tenants, including a Neapolitan-style pizza parlor and a retailer offering supplies for crafting beer and wine.
The improvements are taking shape in the 4600 and 4700 blocks of the thoroughfare, where decades-old Lake Air Lanes has given way to Grace Church, a nondenominational congregation that had been meeting in the auditorium of a local high school and having to haul church-related equipment to Sunday services in a 24-foot-long trailer.
“We had our first worship service in the new building this past Sunday,” said Jay Mathis, who described himself as the pastor for preaching at Grace Church.
The church typically attracts 450 people to morning worship but may see that number grow because of the overhaul of the bowling center and the 22,000 square feet now available.
Mathis said the 4-year-old church attracts worshippers from all over Central Texas, including McGregor and China Spring, and that about a third are college students.
“We wanted to find a building in the heart of Waco, and we had looked downtown and along Franklin Avenue and Waco Drive,” Mathis said. “This place came on the market about 18 months ago, and it fit a lot of what we wanted in a location. The street carries a lot of traffic, but we also have residential areas nearby.”
Bowlmor AMF was asking $875,000 for the building, but the church negotiated a better deal, real estate agent Jim Peevey said. He declined to name the final cost, as did Mathis. The pastor also remained tight-lipped about how much was spent to transform the structure into a house of worship.
Pearson Construction served as general contractor, stripping away all the wiring and heating and air-conditioning equipment down to the steel and brick. ARC Abatement chipped in to remove all asbestos and place a new roof atop the building, “which was an expense we had not foreseen,” Mathis said.
Since bowling alleys typically remain dark except for the lighting above the lanes, Lake Air Lanes had no windows. That would not do, Mathis said, so crews placed large windows along the front and side, creating a lot of natural lighting for the expansive lobby where visitors will gather.
“Now we have a good, functional building with an auditorium, a wonderful nursery area and offices for the staff,” Mathis said.
Mathis said he appreciates the crossing currents of land use along and near Bosque Boulevard. The area has come alive with growth and development, with a new headquarters for Texas First State Bank operating at Lake Air Drive and Bosque Boulevard, across the street from the stately home of Alliance Bank of Central Texas.
Nearby, behind OakCrest Funeral Home, the Magnolia Villas subdivision created by Chip and Joanna Gaines continues to fill.
Jerry Wells, an agent with Magnolia Realty, said 36 homes have sold, and Russ Davis Homes has bought four lots to build on.
Nearby, at 4700 Bosque Blvd., Marketplace Shopping Center has become The Market Square, where Moroso Wood Fired Pizzeria has replaced the departed Cafe Cappuccino as the anchor tenant.
It will open in early May, owner Dan Moroso said Tuesday, adding, “We are absolutely ecstatic at the response we’ve been getting from the Waco community.”
He said residents who have heard about his plans stop by the center to wish him luck and inquire about an opening date.
Moroso said he wants to create a family atmosphere that will feature a large “community table,” at which diners from different groups can enjoy pizza or other Italian dishes such as pasta, salads, Italian sandwiches, mozzarella and desserts. A chandelier will hover above customers.
Nathan Embry, an agent with Keller Williams Realty, said three spots remain available for lease at The Market Square.
“It has been completely remodeled, and we’re trying to re-create an iconic shopping experience,” Embry said. “There will be fountains out front, and people can walk around and window-shop, possibly while holding a slice of pizza in their hand. We’re really excited about it.”
Veteran tenants such as Kindler’s Gem Jewelers, Hemingway’s Watering Hole, Waco’s All About Travel, Stylus & Co. Hair Designs and ABC School of Massage remain at The Market Square. The remodeling created an additional 3,000 square feet available for use by restaurants or retailers.
Brewmeisters, which sells supplies for making beer and wine, has relocated from Lake Air Drive to about 400 square feet in The Market Square.
“I chose this location because I noticed the work being put into it, and with Hemingway’s already there and the artisan pizza place going in, it just seemed like a natural fit,” owner Jarett McMahon said. “I am super impressed with all the work being done to the center and am happy to have grabbed a spot there.”
He said beer making has become very popular in the northern United States, and it is gaining traction in Texas.
Meanwhile, Mathis, pastor of Grace Church, said the congregation bought the bowling alley “knowing we would never add on to the building.”
“Instead, we hope to grow our numbers here, then in three to five years plant another Grace Church somewhere else,” he said.
He said he wants the church to interact with the public in several ways, one being allowing the farmers’ market that once sold fresh fruits and vegetables on the parking lot of the Extraco Events Center to set up produce stands on the parking lot of the church several times a week.
The presence of the Waco High School campus nearby serves as a reminder that Waco has an unusually large number of students who are homeless, Mathis said. The church would welcome the opportunity to help meet their needs, and that might include church members serving as foster families, he said.
“This church has a strong mission intent and the desire to extend the gospel to those around us,” Mathis said. “The question we seek to answer is, ‘How do we redeem our city?’ ”
And if members want to discuss strategy over a wood-fired pizza at Moroso, so much the better, Mathis said.