Earth Mover: Julio del Carpio

Natural Home salutes Julio del Carpio, who’s spearheading efforts to revive and celebrate Houston’s East End District.

| May/June 2004

  • Julio del Carpio in the East End. Below, the renovated Marbella building houses a bar that looks like a bullfight arena.
    Photo By Kim Christensen
  • Julio del Carpio in the East End. Below, the renovated Marbella building houses a bar that looks like a bullfight arena.
    Photo By Kim Christensen

Julio del Carpio hadn’t thought much about Houston’s East End District until four years ago. He did not live in the area, one of Houston’s largest and lowest income communities—a mish-mash of residential, commercial, and abandoned industrial properties bordered by the Houston Ship Channel and just five minutes from downtown. It was a mere blip on his radar.

Then the Bolivian-born architect was commissioned to renovate the Laredo National Bank on Harrisburg Boulevard, the East End’s main artery. “One look at the East End, with its thriving Latin population, and I knew there was potential,” he says. “The area was ripe for change. All it needed was a facelift.”

Del Carpio’s instincts proved correct. The designer crafted a Spanish Colonial complex out of three abandoned buildings for the Laredo National Bank, but his vision was greater than one renovation. What if the East End could become a cultural attraction? Though some merchants were initially opposed to del Carpio’s plans, little by little they began making changes to their storefronts.

“It’s what I call change by example,” says del Carpio, who opened an office on Harrisburg Boulevard to demonstrate his dedication to the district. Next, he purchased and renovated the two-story, 1934 building that became Marbella Banquet Hall. Today it houses shops, a country chapel, two courtyards, waterfalls, a banquet hall, and a bar that looks like a bullfight arena. In keeping with del Carpio’s vision of a Mexican village, Marbella is rife with colonial-style arches, painted floors, stone columns, and sounds of the Amazon.

Understanding that local support is key to success, del Carpio created the Harrisburg Development Association, a group of business owners and community leaders dedicated to creating a master plan. “It can be difficult to generate enthusiasm in an area as long abandoned as the East End,” del Carpio says. “People are skeptical that anything positive can happen. They don’t believe tourists will actually come here.”

Civic leaders quickly embraced del Carpio’s vision. Over the past four years, developers have pumped millions into the area. Seven blocks along Harrisburg Boulevard are awash in bright colors. Wrought iron adorns windows, plants hang from balconies, and there’s an emphasis on new landscaping.

Subscribe today and save 58%

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living !

Mother Earth LivingWelcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $19.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $24.95.

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds