Local investor plans “food maker” campus in Houston warehouse district

Entrepreneur Erik Ibarra aims to breathe new life into a warehouse complex in the Magnolia Park area of Houston’s East End.

Ibarra’s Magnolia Fund is nearing a deal to purchase three buildings at 6600 and 6614 Harrisburg Boulevard, 4 miles east of downtown Houston, with plans to turn them into a 1-acre “food-maker” campus, the Houston Chronicle reported. The seller is local investor Paolo Fronza. 

The project calls for the conversion of a 4,500-square-foot warehouse into two restaurants, a bar and coffee shop. A 9,100-square-foot building will be repurposed into a café, meeting/event venue and coworking space. Magnolia Fund’s plan for the other structure on site has yet to be determined.

The firm aims to incorporate a few shipping containers as flexible commercial kitchen spaces, catering to the needs of budding food entrepreneurs and small business owners requiring short-term access to professional kitchens.

The project has received commitments from a café owner and a preparadas maker, specializing in Mexican drinks, the outlet said.

With a potential opening next year, depending on permitting, Magnolia Fund’s redevelopment aims to preserve the historical integrity of the buildings while meeting the evolving needs of the community. This vision aligns with the seller’s desire to maintain the architectural heritage of the area, as Fronza rejected offers that sought to demolish the buildings.

“Houston doesn’t have a lot of older, historic buildings, and they looked cool to me,” he told the outlet. “When I talked to Erik, they had the same idea. I thought, ‘Maybe we can work on this together on this.’”

Ibarra, who is also the CEO of digital health platform ORDRS, launched Magnolia Fund last year to invest in the East End.

—Quinn Donoghue 

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