The move will divide the Harmony student body in half, with youngsters in kindergarten through sixth grade remaining at the original Waco campus.
“We hope to put 550 to 600 additional students in our new campus, which will be called Harmony School of Innovation,” Harmony spokesperson Noey Meza said.
Online applications for the public charter school will be accepted through Feb. 10, then Harmony will use a lottery system to accept as many students as possible, Meza said.
Contractors interested in bidding to renovate the old H-E-B are invited to a pre-bid conference in the building at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, said Elaine Hobbs, a spokeswoman for the local office of the Associated General Contractors. Harmony will open the bids Jan. 12 in Houston and award a contract shortly thereafter.
“Our goal is to have the project complete by July 14 and for classes to begin in the fall of 2017,” project engineer Mehmed Milanovic said. “We’re talking about a complete renovation. There is nothing inside the building now, but we hope to have 28 classrooms, 18 offices, restrooms, new interior walls and a gym. The entire exterior will receive new paint, and crews will re-stripe the parking lot. It really will be a sight to see because now it is nothing, just an empty building.”
Four local companies have confirmed their interest in bidding on the project: Mazanec, Pearson, Built Wright and John W. Erwin General Contractors.
Milanovic said Harmony has not asked the contractors to provide any pre-bid estimates, and he would not comment on how much the work may cost.
When Harmony bought the former H-E-B, the asking price stood at $3.5 million, said Jim Peevey, a Waco real estate agent who marketed the building for two years.
“I can’t say exactly what it sold for because a nondisclosure agreement was signed,” Peevey said.
Harmony also bought two small lots across Dutton Avenue from the old H-E-B, including on where a church once stood, he said.
Peevey said at least two other potential buyers put the old H-E-B under contract but pulled out of the deals after completing feasibility studies.
“There was an office user and a retail user, but those deals did not get done,” Peevey said.
H-E-B placed restrictions on the use of the property that made finding a suitable buyer challenging, he said. For example, it could not become the property of anyone selling groceries or pharmaceuticals.
“I even marketed the building to Dave & Buster’s, but they had no interest in that particular site,” Peevey said, referring to the Dallas-based restaurant and arcade chain. “I’m still hearing Dave and Buster’s is interested in the Waco market.”
Peevey said he has turned his attention to promoting to Dave & Buster’s the 46,254-square-foot building at 3700 Interstate 35 South, where the ITT Technical Institute campus has closed. That move came in response to the U.S. Department of Education pulling federal financial aid and sanctioning for the for-profit education provider nationwide.
That building, not far from New Road, once served as home to Doc & Laddy’s Family Fun Center and a miniature golf course.
A local investment group is asking $5.1 million for the entire complex, including the building and 3.7 acres on which it sits, as well as nearly 2 acres next door.
“I think that would be an ideal location for a Dave & Buster’s, and I’m working with a third party to follow up with them,” Peevey said.
Harmony’s new campus in Waco will be its 49th in Texas, according to its website.
The current Harmony campus in Waco has operated since 2007 in a building that once housed an Albertsons grocery store.
“I’ve been here since the days the doors opened, and I’ve seen it grow from K to eight to K to 12. There’s only two of us left from the original group when it opened,” Meza said when Harmony bought the former H-E-B. “For Waco, we’re going to be able to bring in more kids, and that’s the main focus.”
He said he thinks Harmony in Waco will have 100 seniors about to enter college within two or three years.
The Harmony system serves more than 30,000 students through a lottery enrollment process and has 31,000 students on its waiting list, spokesperson Erin Wolfe said.
The city of Beverly Hills lost a valuable source of sales tax revenue when the H-E-B at Dutton Avenue and Valley Mills Drive closed. Mayor David Gonzales has said Harmony’s arrival will help remedy that loss as students and their families patronize the growing number of retail and food establishments popping up in the Waco suburb.