Downtown Waco to become home to 27 eateries at one address

Courtesy Photo

By Brooke Hill | Staff Writer

An eating destination where you won’t have to choose between donuts, tacos or pizza is coming to downtown Waco in 2018.

Union Hall, the 18,000-square-foot venue under renovation at the corner of Franklin Avenue and 8th Street, will soon be home to around 24 food stands and three permanent restaurants. The food court will feature a variety of food, dessert and drink options, ranging from full-out restaurants to cafes or dessert stands.

Shane Turner, partial owner of Union Hall, describes the food hall concept as the brick-and-mortar version of an open-air European market, according to the Downtown Waco blog.

Union Hall will be open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The specific hours for the food hall haven’t officially been finalized, but are anticipated to be 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Lucra has hired Studio H2G to design Union Hall. Studio H2G has designed retail spaces all around the world and was named a gold winner in Retail Store Design by The International Council of Shopping Centers.

“We look at Waco as a whole, not just tourism or not just Baylor, and we see what’s missing in downtown Waco,” said Jonathan Garza, commercial leasing and marketing agent for Lucra Real Estate. “We talked to restaurant owners or people who maybe owned a food truck and wanted to make that jump to brick-and-mortar. What we realized, after attending a conference in Austin, is that food halls are kind of the new rage in the U.S.”

Urban eateries are becoming the new standard, the new social destinations, according to Union Hall’s frequently asked questions document. They provide a place where community, history and culture come together in a socially entertaining way. Currently, there is a desire to attract new food concepts and brings more flexibility, more local, more grass roots, which creates a better relationship between the community.

The food hall gives food truck owners an opportunity to transition to a permanent location and add on to their menus without all of the stress and liability of opening their own individual store. Club Sandwich owner and Baylor alum Youngdae Moon is interested in Union Hall for this very reason.

“I think a food hall in Waco is a pretty exciting development. While the concept isn’t that new, they’re still pretty rare, existing mostly in larger metropolitan cities. With all the growth Waco has seen in the last few years, a food hall would be another draw for locals and visitors alike,” Moon said. “Personally, I’d be really interested in opening my first brick-and-mortar location there because it is so unique. Not only would having a wide selection of cuisines in one building solve the familiar problem of a family or group of friends deciding what to eat, I think it could create a really fun and cool dining experience.”

There will be a space designated within the food hall to hold community events such as concerts or celebrity chef cook-offs. Garza says the hope for the space is to get the community involved.

“It’s good for Waco,” said Garza. “Our goal is to get people from the surrounding parts of Waco, so families who live in Robinson and Woodway and Hewitt, to make a trip to downtown and to make a night of downtown at the food hall or any of the establishments there.”