It’s Time We Talked About Waco

The city’s been working on fixing its image for years.

By Alain Stephens & Rhonda FanningMay 26, 2016 11:11 am

Just what is it about Waco?

For some, the name itself brings up ordeals like the Twin Peaks biker shootout or the Branch Davidian standoff. But despite its checkered past, Waco may finally be finding its mojo – shedding its “wacko” image in favor of a more trendy personality. Robert Darden, a communications professor at Baylor, says that, people are finally taking notice of what Waco has to offer.

“It is a good looking place, the river runs right in the middle of it, we have the fourth largest city park in America,” Darden says. “It’s a good looking town. If all you ever see is I-35, you’ll never know that.”

Part of that has to do with the new hit HGTV show, Fixer Upper, about a couple that remodels homes in the Waco area. But that’s only part of the equation.

“Economics gurus tell me its more a factor of the millennials graduating from school, and the guys with CPAs and law degrees and M.D.s and such are just not gonna do the hour and a half commute into Austin, they’re not gonna live in McKinney to work in Dallas,” Darden says. “What we’re seeing is towns like Waco and New Braunfels and Temple and Georgetown, and even McKinney – they’re starting here and there buying their first home here.”

Waco has always been a welcoming place, Darden says. That’s why millennials are moving in. But that same welcoming spirit has, in the past, attracted outsiders as well – both the good and the bad.

“A lot of people who hadn’t found a home find us very comfortable. But being welcoming means a David Koresh comes wandering in,” Darden says. “It means you got your own kind of music and it ranges from the Jules Bledsoe… and then you have the Twin Peaks shootout… It just careens from one side of the spectrum to the other.”

But that quality is beginning to change Waco for the better. Darden says the housing market has improved, and the city sees somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 new visitors a week.

“Waco is a destination – it wasn’t before,” he says. “It’s our turn.”

Prepared for web by Alexandra Hart.