In a joint press release issued late Friday afternoon, ten banks, all of which have locations in Central Texas, announced the formation of a new district that they hope will serve as the catalyst for future development in West Waco, the Bank District.
The district, which roughly follows the triangular outline formed by Valley Mills Drive, Bosque Boulevard and Lake Air Drive, becomes Waco’s sixth district. The five other districts—the Silo District, Austin Avenue District, Cultural District, River District and Elm Avenue District—are all concentrated in the downtown area, a factor that apparently weighed heavily into the banks’ plans.
“We think it’s great that so many people want to visit Magnolia Market and the silos,” said Matt Smith, a commercial loan officer at Central National Bank and a member of the Bank District’s advisory board. “But, we felt like West Waco needed some love, too. Not to mention, have you seen how many banks there are in this part of town? It was a no-brainer.”
But, some community leaders are already raising concerns about the newly formed district.
Fiona Bond, who successfully spearheaded Creative Waco’s recent bid to establish a state-recognized cultural district, is skeptical that bank officials followed correct protocol.
“You can’t just look around and say, ‘Yeah, there are a lot of banks around here. Let’s put together a map and call ourselves a district.’ It doesn’t quite work like that,” said Bond. “If it did, we’d already have multiple church districts in this city.”
Bond says she would support the new district if each bank commissioned a major piece of public art, but she also cautioned that “districts should only be formed when there’s a quantifiable community need.”
Now is The Time
However, bank officials insist that the community is ready for a bank district, something they say is already evident from the early feedback they’ve received from realtors.
“It’s not uncommon for us to get calls from out-of-state buyers looking to move to Waco because of Fixer Upper,” said Roman Novian, a realtor with Coldwell Banker. “But, now a lot of those people are calling [and] asking about listings near the Bank District. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Bank District became the hottest real estate market in Waco.”
Editor’s Note: After seeing a preview of this article, Novian’s attorney requested that we publish the unedited footage of his interview:
Plans for the Future
In the next few weeks, bank officials expect to roll out a number of way-finding signs that will not only brand the area, but will also serve to welcome drivers and pedestrians into the district.
“At this point, we’re just waiting on the city to sign off on the plans—no pun intended,” said Smith.
Waco City Manager Dale Fisseler couldn’t be reached for comment, but one city official with knowledge of the district’s signage application said there was “absolutely no way that’s happening.”
The signage is just one phase of the district’s plans to improve the area. Additional plans also include the unveiling of a Grackle Wildlife Refuge Area at the H-E-B on Wooded Acres and a trolley line that will run during the district’s hours of operation: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday – Thursday and 9 a.m. to noon on Fridays. The reduced Friday hours are designed to accommodate bankers’ standing tee times at Ridgewood Country Club.
In the next few weeks, the district also has plans to formalize its board of directors, name a president, and begin applying for TIF funds, as well as state and federal grants. They also hope to soon make presentations at various Rotary, Kiwanis, and Lions Club meetings.
Room for Extra Banks?
One noticeable omission from the first rendering of the Bank District map is Extraco Banks, which has a location at the intersection of Valley Mills Dr. and Bosque Blvd.
When asked why Extraco was not included in the district, representatives declined to comment. They did, however, say that “any nearby banks that would like to join are encouraged to submit an application to the district’s membership committee.”
The district also doesn’t include any credit unions. But, district representatives suggested this was because there are simply no nearby credit unions and that it “had nothing to do with the fact that credit unions don’t pay any federal income tax.”
Banking on Community Buy-In
To help inform the Greater Waco community about Bank District news, special promotions, and other important updates, the district has launched social media accounts (@BankDistrict) on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Followers of these accounts will not only stay up to date with the district’s latest happenings, but they’ll also be randomly entered into drawings for free toasters.
Waco City Councilman Jim Holmes, whose district includes the Bank District, says he doesn’t need a toaster but that he still plans to follow the district on social media.
“Sometimes the best things in life are things you never thought you needed,” said Holmes. “And, I’m willing to bet that no one has ever thought that Waco needed a bank district.”
About the Bank District:
The first of its kind in the state of Texas, Waco’s Bank District is made up of ten banks: Alliance Bank, Bank of America, BBVA Compass, Central National Bank, Community Bank & Trust, First Community Bank / Pioneer Bank, The First National Bank of Central Texas, Independent Bank, Texas First State Bank, and Wells Fargo.