If you follow Austin Avenue south, past 11th Street, the road widens and the traffic thins and calms a bit. Keep going across 18th Street and you’ll start to see more green space, more residential space and moms with strollers. This is all “Uptown.” Signs have even popped up recently, to that point
“What’s Uptown?” you ask. That’s a great question.
We don’t know what began the place label “Uptown” that seems to have been around since at least the 1950s. But today it’s being dusted off, re-embraced and redefined by folks who live and work along the stretch of Austin Avenue between roughly 12th and 25th streets.
“We have been wanting this to happen for as long as we’ve been here,” said Holly Stump, co-owner of Sironia, the collection of shops and café that have enjoyed 13 years at 1509 Austin Avenue. “We’d love to see Downtown Waco and Uptown be like they were in the 50s.”
Stump is quite familiar with the Uptown designator and its history. The building Sironia inhabits still bears an Uptown sign, remnants of branding from mid-century when it was a department store.
The Uptown moniker has seen a resurgence in the last few years since Sironia and surrounding shops have been hosting the Uptown Christmas Stroll, a day of fun, food, Santa and shopping during the holidays.
More recently, newer inhabitants of the Uptown area, including Pinewood Coffee Bar (2223 Austin Ave.) and Rydell Real Estate (also 2223 Austin Ave.) have taken an interest in embracing the neighborhood’s identity. Especially as Rydell will soon be bringing new multiple family housing online on Austin and Washington avenues.
“The goal is they’ll look like a single family structure,” Dillon Meek, District 4 city councilman and general counsel for Rydell Holdings, said of the development along Washington Avenue, south of 18th street. And on the Austin Avenue side, the development will be low-density apartments with green space and a look similar to that of Palm Court, the historic apartments at 2005 Austin Ave.
Meek describes Uptown as, “quirky, fun and growing.”
Stump envisions the neighborhood as being less touristy than downtown and having an ease and slower pace to it.
“We want to be part of the daily routine of local’s lives,” Stump said.
Summer Shine, whose business Luna Juice Bar will soon move into its own retail spot in Uptown (1516 Austin Avenue) sees the neighborhood similarly.
“I think uptown is this up and coming spot in Waco and a great corridor between suburban Waco and downtown,” Shine said. “For us, it’s going to open up a gateway for local traffic we’ve been missing since we’ve been at the Silos.”
Shine said the neighborhood’s re-gnited pride of place is a perfect fit for her business.
“(Luna is) hyper-focused on community so it just makes sense for us to move into a place celebrating its identity,” she said.
Meek, Stump, the Pinewood Coffee Bar owners and others have started a conversation about the Uptown identity and are currently working on determining the neighborhood’s parameters which may stretch from Franklin Avenue to Waco Drive.
(The stretch of Uptown up to 18th Street is considered to also be a district of Downtown Waco.)
Meek said he looks forward to what will come from those who self-identify as Uptown working together to promote the area. He said there’s room at the table for more voices from the neighborhood to join the Uptown conversation.
“Hopefully, it will lead stakeholders in that area to come together to strategize and collaborate,” Meek said. “We’re excited to see those efforts form.”