WACO, Texas – August 10, 2021 – SRH Hospitality Holdings LLC, a veteran developer of top-tier hospitality brands, and SkyWalker Property Partners LLC will break ground in mid-August on an AC Hotel by Marriott, the first full-service hotel to be developed in downtown Waco since the early 1980s.
The 182-key AC Hotel Waco is slated to deliver in spring 2023 in the prestigious Magnolia Silos District, which is a designated Qualified Opportunity Zone for investment purposes. To help make the project a reality, the city has partnered with SRH by providing project-related incentives exceeding $13.5 million over a 10-year period. The incentives are primarily self-fulfilling and will be generated by the AC Hotel.
Centrally located downtown, the 2.5-acre infill site is bordered by Mary Avenue, which is envisioned as the city’s “festival street,” South 6th Street and Jackson Avenue. The SRH project will be located directly across the street from Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Market at the Silos, less than seven-tenths of a mile from Baylor University and close to several major mixed-use developments that are now underway or in planning stages.
“Waco has evolved into a destination with broad demand generators from education, business and lifestyle. We see a strong need for an upscale hotel in Waco,” says Paul Barham, CEO of Harrell Hospitality Group, SRH Hospitality’s operating partner and property management firm.
The five-story AC Hotel, totaling 107,700 sf, will feature well-appointed, classic modern suites and a 16,900-sf street-level conference center with break-out rooms and adjoining 4,000-sf poolside terrace. Other amenities are a 7,700-sf ballroom divisible into five salons with ceiling heights of 20 to 22 feet, the highest in Waco’s hospitality inventory; signature restaurant and bar with indoor and outdoor seating; club-level fitness center; and 332-space parking garage. SRH also plans to construct an adjacent two-story, 17,500-sf commercial/retail building with a rooftop terrace.
Rogers-O’Brien Construction Co. is the general contractor. NORR is the architect of record. Interiors were designed by Design Force Corp. and Wild Muse Interiors. Happy State Bank and Petros PACE Finance provided construction financing.
The AC Hotel Waco is SRH Hospitality’s sixth project in Texas. The Dallas-based development group was founded in 2013 by Seneca Investments, Rochester Real Estate and Harrell Hospitality Group. SkyWalker Property Partners has joined the partnership as a sponsor in the Waco project.
“SkyWalker has followed the dramatic improvements and growth in downtown Waco. We’ve been underwriting the market and projects for several years,” says Gary Walker, founder of the North Texas-based investment firm and one of two Baylor graduates in the SRH consortium.
AC Hotel Waco will be positioned within three blocks of the city’s convention center, fueling the potential to provide overflow meeting space, host related events and offer additional full-service amenities for convention-goers and tourists alike. The city’s hotel inventory predominately is limited/select service and extended stay, including seven recently completed or under-construction projects.
“Together with the other hotel operators in the market, we want Waco to be seen as the perfect convention, business and leisure destination in Texas,” Barham says.
Waco has emerged from a university-reliant city into a thriving destination due in large part to the Gaines’ investment in the downtown after they became television stars with a cult following of fans and shoppers. Magnolia Market at the Silos, encompassing two blocks, attracts an estimated 30,000 visitors per week. The couple recently acquired a multi-story office building and will be relocating their corporate headquarters to the dynamic lifestyle district.
Nearby, several multimillion-dollar projects are in various stages of development. Baylor University, with a student enrollment exceeding 18,000, is planning to develop a $105 million basketball pavilion, with seating capacity for up to 7,500, and $60 million, 120,000-sf welcome center complex. The construction list also includes the Brazos Riverfront, an active mixed-use waterfront district in the downtown; Julius Kramaric’s expansion of Pivovar, a Czech-inspired brewery, bakery and restaurant; and the Containery, a new shopping and dining venue also in the downtown. Roughly a half-mile from the AC Hotel site are prime attractions like Balcones Distilling, an acclaimed whiskey producer offering tours of its 65,000-sf facility’s historic building; Dr. Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute; Spice Village, a popular boutique shopping destination; and the Brazos River, where outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy boating, canoeing and kayaking.
“Investment by others always makes us feel more confident with our decision to enter a new market,” says Jerry Crenshaw, founder of Rochester Real Estate, the hospitality company’s structuring/finance partner, and Baylor alumnus.