Marlin, a community of about 6,700 in Falls County, is dreaming big these days, having recently hosted a visit from a China-based multinational company that serves such retailers as Nordstrom, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren — and also gets involved in high-end real estate ventures.

A&A International reportedly is looking to expand in Texas from hubs in Los Angeles and Seattle. Its representatives even hinted at interest in the iconic but long vacant Falls Hotel, once a haven for the wealthy wanting to soak in the hot mineral water for which the city became famous.

Legend and online discussions suggest the hotel has a haunted past.

But that’s a story for another time.

According to a news release, A&A representatives visited with Marlin Mayor Carolyn Lofton, City Manager Cedric Davis Sr. and members of the Marlin City Council. The visitors include company principal Yuanming Zhang, of Beijing, and U.S. operations manager Tyler Walker, of Seattle. They received tours of the industrial park, a city park, downtown attractions and a couple of working ranches. They also sampled the cuisine at a handful of Marlin eateries.

The visit to the hotel, said Marlin leaders, came in response to “potential of creating condos/lofts with a hot mineral water spa and salon, a coffee shop, along with several boutiques.” After all, they note, A&A’s expertise includes investing, property management and high-end real estate.

Representatives from H-E-B and Walmart also joined the festivities, said Davis, who was quoted as saying the city is making every effort to revitalize Marlin and make it a tourism and business hub.

Sizzling downtown

Downtown Waco continues to sizzle with development. Here’s a sampling of new project announcements and progress reports on others.

  • Chip and Joanna Gaines bought the former CrossFit gym and training facility at Eighth Street and Webster, about two blocks from the Silos, with plans to place there a coffee shop, as a sign posted there confirms. As anyone who has traveled downtown recently can conform, that intersection is crawling with tourists, traffic barricades and work crews, including brick masons.

“The coffee shop, Magnolia Press, is coming along nicely — the project is progressing right on schedule and currently slated for an October opening,” said Magnolia spokesman John Marsicano in an email response.

In a recent blog post noted by People magazine, Joanna Gaines wrote, “When our team brainstormed on the name we kept coming back to this idea of a french press and the slower (but very rewarding) process of making a rich, good cup of coffee. It felt symbolic for what we hope people find here with us — a spot to slow down, to take it all in, and to simply savor the moment.”

That will be one big coffee shop. The McLennan County Appraisal District and LoopNet, a real estate site, say the building is 17,124 square feet. The Gaineses reportedly will have a full-service coffee bar, pastries and teas, and will offer seating inside and outside, as the Tribune-Herald reported earlier.

Reflecting the Magnolia impact on property values, as well as CrossFit’s remodeling before it departed, that site is appraised this year at $1.4 million, up from $1.2 million last year and $273,800 five years ago.

  • A banner on the Union Hall food hall under development at Eighth Street and Franklin Avenue says serving will commence this summer.

It appears its self-imposed Sept. 23 deadline will be met.

Sam Castillo, whose family owns the La Fiesta Mexican restaurant, said in an interview that once he receives approval to begin customizing his three leased spaces in the hall, he could welcome the public in four weeks, six tops.

“I expect to open by the end of August, or very shortly thereafter,” he said.

Castillo has a sizable stake in the hall, also called Urban Eatery in signage, a project of developers Shane Turner and Todd Behringer being marketed by real estate agents Jonathan Garza and Clay Fuller.

He has secured bar rights to serve alcohol throughout the common area, will operate a main bar and a satellite location, and will serve tacos out of a third leased area, which developers are calling stalls. More than 20 stalls will serve food, drink or a combination thereof, the Tribune-Herald has been told.

“The taco bar is not gourmet but neither is it run-of-the-mill,” said Castillo. “We will have Baja Fish and Korean Barbecue, for example.”

Castillo said the food hall concept is growing on him.

“It will be a neighborhood place where you can spend a couple of hours, enjoy a diverse menu, do a little grazing,” Castillo said. “Instead of ordering a main item, you can take small bites of a little bit of everything.”

  • Lemy’s Soft Frozen Lemonade has opened downtown, most recently parked beside the Praetorian Building at 601 Franklin Ave. A news release from spokesperson Cydney Cockerill said Lemy’s hopefully will partner with local businesses “to do fun pop-ups or private events.”
  • January Letterpress, a new stationary shop, held its grand opening Saturday at 700 Franklin Ave. It provides customized letterpress services and sells greeting cards, journals, notebooks, desk supplies and gifts.
  • The Wm & K. Clemens building at 701 Austin Ave., in the heart of downtown development, is for sale and is being marketed by Gregg Glime with Coldwell Banker Commercial in Waco. Built in 1929, it includes more than 17,000 square feet within a Tax Increment Financing district and a Public Improvement District, according to online information. It also has been designated a Contributing Historic Structure in the downtown overlay, according to a marketing document.

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