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Downtown Waco board OKs $2.6 million for Magnolia conversion of Trib building

Downtown Waco board OKs $2.6 million for Magnolia conversion of Trib building

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Chip and Joanna Gaines are buying the 70-year downtown home of the Waco Tribune-Herald newspaper at 900 Franklin Ave., planning to make it their Magnolia brand's corporate headquarters.

Waco’s downtown Tax Increment Financing Zone board voted Thursday to recommend $2.6 million to assist Magnolia in renovating the Tribune-Herald building at 900 Franklin Ave. into its corporate headquarters.

Magnolia’s application for the economic development money shows the company will spend $13.6 million on the building, which will include a production studio for its programming on the new Magnolia Network, as well as a test kitchen, offices, meeting rooms and warehouse space.

“It allows us to bring together several disparate sites for our consolidated headquarters and presence for our business, bringing together a lot of teams,” Magnolia CFO Michael Rodriguez told the TIF board Thursday.

The project will renovate 70,000 of the building’s 110,000 square feet, and the facility will house about 200 employees of Magnolia, just blocks away from Magnolia Market at the Silos, Waco’s biggest tourist attraction.

Magnolia Tribune-Herald rendering

A rendering that Magnolia submitted to the Tax Increment Financing Zone board shows the Mary Avenue side of the Tribune-Herald building with a new balcony, new windows, painted brick and other exterior changes.

The newspaper will move this month to offices on the third floor of River Square Center, leaving its home of more than 70 years. The renovation of the 900 Franklin Ave. property is expected to be complete by summer of next year.

The TIF Zone was formed to invest in infrastructure and incentives in the downtown area using a portion of property tax revenue collected in the area. The TIF board’s recommendation will now head to the Waco City Council for final approval.

Under the deal, Magnolia would receive three annual TIF payments after the TIF-eligible public improvements associated with the project are complete.

Eligible public improvements include demolition of some of the parking and curbs around the building, and rebuilding a drain, city Economic Development Manager Kent George said during the TIF meeting. Other eligible planned expenses are $220,000 in environmental costs and $1.2 million in exterior improvements, including new windows, awnings, curtainwalls and painting the brick.

Rodriguez said the new headquarters might include electric vehicle charging stations and solar power, if possible.

During the TIF board meeting, Rodriguez presented renderings showing the side of the building facing Mary Avenue renovated to include large windows, in keeping with a city redevelopment plans for Mary Avenue.

“As you know, right now there’s planned work to develop Mary Avenue into more of a pedestrian passageway,” Rodriguez said. “We’re really excited to tie in our work into the connection of that property.”

He said the new site will allow Magnolia to consolidate its operations.

“Today we have an extensive business presence headquartered and rounded here in Waco,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez listed off Magnolia’s branches, including Magnolia Market, Magnolia Home, the restaurant Magnolia Table, Silos Baking Co., Magnolia Realty, Magnolia Press, Magnolia’s commercial kitchen, and now the Magnolia Network, Blind Nil Productions, as well as an upcoming hotel at Washington Avenue and Seventh Street. The company’s distribution center for online sales is also located locally, on Jewell Drive.

City staff recommended granting Magnolia the whole amount, and City Center Waco gave “enthusiastic recommendation” of the project because it will preserve the existing building and come with improvements along Franklin Avenue in front of the building, calling it a “bellwether” for the redevelopment of downtown.

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