Waco City Council on Tuesday approved downtown incentives to turn an abandoned cottonseed mill into an artisan market and build a riverside memorial to a Pearl Harbor hero.
HGTV “Fixer Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines received $208,376 in Tax Increment Financing Zone funds to create Magnolia Market at the former mill at 601 Webster Ave., which includes two giant silos. They are preparing to spend more than $1.4 million to turn the 2.6-acre site into the Magnolia Homes headquarters, a retail space, a trailer food court and a monthly market.
The council approved the incentive unanimously, but only after Councilwoman Alice Rodriguez questioned the Gaineses’ plans to leave the rusted silos unpainted. A review committee of the Downtown Development Corp. this month recommended in favor of that decision. The Gaineses have argued that the rustic appearance of the silos is part of their aesthetic and will be visually offset by other improvements.
Chip Gaines told Rodriguez that he expects the silos ultimately will be renovated and painted.
“That’s a Phase 2 project,” he said. ‘We’ll revisit the idea.”
In an interview, Gaines said he is preparing to put a wrought-iron fence around the property and expects to open in spring 2015.
The council also approved $180,132 for the Doris Miller Memorial on the east bank of the Brazos River in Bledsoe-Miller Park. The $1.4 million landscape sculpture will include a statue of the Navy hero inside of a stylized ship hull.
The council also approved $482,769 in TIF funds for the first phase of West Campus Lofts, a student housing project at 805 S. Eighth St. An Austin company is erecting 36 modular apartment units on the campus of the former South Waco Junior High School and plans to renovate that building as well.
In other business, the council:
• Voted to expand the boundaries of “Greater Downtown” under the Imagine Waco Plan. The western boundary of the focus area for the plan now will move from 18th Street to 26th Street. Waco Downtown Development Corp. Executive Director Megan Henderson said the 25th Street corridor has urban architecture and density similar to downtown and should be included in the plan for revitalizing the inner city.
• Approved a special permit that will allow Jennifer Sulak to run a child care center at 2001 Gorman Ave. and live upstairs. Sulak said she is planning to accept only babies and will offer extended hours up to 11 p.m.
Councilman John Kinnaird said he was uneasy about allowing a business to operate in the middle of a residential neighborhood. But Councilwoman Toni Herbert, who represents North Waco, said she wants to encourage neighborhood-based child care.
“If it was anything else, I would probably share your concern, but we need the service,” she said.