The new year brings with it a whole new life for the 500 block of Austin Avenue, in a big way.
You’ve likely seen the renovation that’s been underway at what was formerly the Bank of America building on that block, 514 Austin Ave. The buildings flanking that historic façade, 510 and 518 Austin Ave., are being revamped and getting new tenants as well.
Soon, realtors, lawyers, therapists and entrepreneurs, just to name a few future tenants, will be coming and going from those buildings. Completion date for the project is the first quarter of 2021.
Parts of that mid-block stretch of Austin Avenue date back to the 1800s, said Steve Sorrells, whose Sorrells and Co. is tackling the sizeable renovations. The building at 518 Austin was once the historic Strand theatre (1920-1955) and Bank of America existed in what was once Citizens National Bank.
“Back in the day, this was the poppin’ place. Every banker in Waco came through here,” Sorrells said.
Sorrells said the spaces will house Class A office space with a contemporary feel while honoring the buildings’ histories.
The former bank space was sprawling but inefficient, Sorrells said. He went back in and added floors, taking the square footage from 35,000 to close to 50,000 square feet. The historic façade will remain and the night deposit areas near the entrance will be repurposed as a walk up ATM on one side and a small space for a food pop up on the other side.
Inside, the domed ceiling is gone and the lobby opens up to a new second floor of offices. History buffs, never fear. Sorrells has kept the old clock from the bank lobby, the quaint local art that graced the walls, the vaults and some 5000 safe deposit boxes and keys.
“They’re awesome. We might turn around and use them for art,” Sorrells said of the safe deposit boxes.
Next door at 510 Austin Ave., Sorrells said they will be keeping the framework and columns on the façade, but will be putting glass inside that, flooding the space with light. That address will be home to a co-working space operated by an established co-working group out of the Chicago area, 25N Coworking. Rather than an entirely open concept, 25N will feature a number of small, dedicated work spaces. Here also, modern office space will mingle with original floor tiling and exposed brick.
Sorrells said he’s aiming for a juxtaposition between historic and contemporary, melding them into something to be proud of for the next 100 years.
At 518 Austin Ave., Sorrells will be moving his firm back into its offices and a law firm moving to town will take the space with prime big windows and view of the McLennan County Courthouse. This building will be holding onto its old Waco character in the form of marks on the walls indicating rows of seating at the Strand theatre, as well as old plaster and arches.
The fourth floor on the very top will be a common area with a full kitchen and rooftop deck.
Sorrells said the leasing is going well with only a few spaces still looking for tenants.
Having grown up in Waco and had his offices downtown since 2010, Sorrells has seen a number of changes downtown.
“I remember Austin Avenue when it was astroturf, so it’s been fun to see it coming back,” he said. Sorrells is looking forward to getting back in his office and out of the construction trailer across the street. And he’s ready to finish up with this project and turn his focus to developing his property across the street.