Marshall Stewman drove Friday from Dallas to Waco, where he closed on the purchase of an 11,000-square-foot building in easy walking distance of Magnolia Market at the Silos, a tourist magnet at Sixth Street and Webster Avenue that attracts 35,000 people a week to the edge of downtown.
Watching families march toward the mecca Magnolia has become under the leadership of Chip and Joanna Gaines, Stewman said he was interested in the vacant building at 300 S. Sixth St. for months before striking a deal.
“But I probably would not have paid what I paid without Magnolia in the picture,” he said with laugh.
Stewman, a Waco native and Texas A&M University graduate, said he will convert the former Morrison Supply structure into a retail, restaurant and entertainment space. He hopes to subdivide the single-story building for use by multiple tenants, while creating a landscaped patio on the east side with bistro tables and strand lights running overhead. On the Mary Avenue side, he envisions what he calls a raised patio where patrons can dine, relax and watch the parade to Magnolia.
“This will be similar to the food hall concept popping up in large cities throughout the United States,” Stewman said.
The March online issue of “Eater” magazine includes a headline that blares, “Nine new food halls to get excited about in 2016.” The article says the American food hall boom is showing no signs of slowing, and that the culinary marketplaces are spreading like wildfire to metropolitan areas including Denver, Dallas, Detroit and Austin.
Stewman does not claim his project will match these drinking, dining and retailing establishments, but he’s confident it will have an impact.
Getting approval from the Waco Plan Commission and the Waco City Council likely will continue through early September. Meanwhile, crews will bury unsightly power lines, install new outside lighting, paint the building and upgrade the parking lot.
Within six weeks, Stewman wants to get potential tenants involved in tweaking their own space and including architectural touches and flourishes they want to promote, he said.
“I can see us allotting space to a clothier, a high-end women’s line or even a T-shirt emporium,” Stewman said.
He will take Magnolia’s proximity into consideration when choosing tenants and would like to attract restaurants that have a regional presence, he said.
“Maybe someone has two locations in Austin and three in Dallas and would like something in between,” Stewman said.
He said he continues to weigh having one or two restaurants anchoring the development, with retail taking the balance of the space.
Peter Thyen, 35, a Waco native who also attended Texas A&M, joined Stewman on his trip to Waco on Friday.
“Peter and I own property in Dallas, including a 24-unit apartment complex and three duplexes, but we’re wanting to sell those and move our portfolio here,” Stewman said.
He acquired the building, which is valued for tax purposes at $924,000, from Shane Turner, who is involved in several downtown projects.
He would not reveal the sales price, though he said it was worth more than it would have been before Magnolia’s popularity exploded.
“It was an investment I purchased probably two years ago, before Magnolia took off like it has,” Turner said. “There is a lot of traffic in that area, which definitely is helping with the value of real estate. We had no immediate plans for the building, though it is a great piece of property with a lot of potential.”
Magnolia spokesman Brock Murphy said he is pleased to see vacant property filling up nearby.
“One of the reasons Chip and Joanna went from their little shop on Bosque Boulevard to the Silo project was to help revitalize downtown,” Murphy said. “There was great growth happening at the time, and they wanted to get on board and bring more excitement. We hope people continue to put in restaurants and stores.”
Murphy said Magnolia has attracted 30,000 to 35,000 people a week during the summer, and employees there tout the rest of Waco to tourists.
“We’re a stop on the Silo District trolley, and we have somebody standing outside our store handing out maps of the route, showing people there are other things to do and sending people out and about once they leave here,” Murphy said. “We want them to experience Waco and discover the reason we love it.”
Earlier this week, Turner confirmed he will convert a cluster of aging buildings between Seventh and Eighth streets on Franklin Avenue into Franklin Square, a mixed-use development that will include loft apartments, retail and restaurant space. One building to be renovated is the historic Waco Labor Temple at 702 Franklin Ave.
Turner said finish-out work will make several loft condominiums at 2216 S. Sixth St. available for occupancy by the end of August. He and his partners last year began placing 21 luxury lofts in the 99-year-old warehouse but only have three still available. They are priced from $275,000 to “into the millions of dollars,” he said.
Greg Glime, a local real estate agent helping Stewman find tenants, said renovations soon will begin in the 800 block of Austin Avenue, where Sean Lin will place Hayashi Japanese Steakhouse and Lounge in about 5,700 square feet of space at 804 and 806 Austin Ave., occupied for many years by New York Clothiers & Loan. Glime helped Lin secure a lease on the two spaces.
“As I understand it, meat will be prepared and placed on large pieces of granite, and customers will choose the cuts they prefer, which will then be placed on plates,” Glime said. “It’s kind of a self-serve approach that I think Waco diners will enjoy.”