After an especially passionate citizens to be heard session, City Council voted in favor of closing the block of South Main Avenue that dissects H-E-B’s property and a development agreement for the grocery chain’s proposed 10,000 square foot store and improvements to surrounding public streets.
Correction: The vote was unanimous but District 10 Councilman Carlton Soules and District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg recused themselves from the process.
After the bike lanes, landscaping, widened sidewalks and traffic mitigation improvements have been constructed – which is expected to take six to eight months and cost $4 million– S. Main Avenue will be closed to public access. H-E-B will then begin the more than nine month construction of “Flores Market” (working title) store and the remaining $100 million master plan.
[Read more about H-E-B’s master plan here.]
The vote comes as no surprise to both supporters and those in opposition, the presentations from the Center City Development Office and H-E-B given during yesterday’s Planning Commission vote.
[Read more about the passionate citizen debate here and hear from local residents and organizations: “H-E-B’s Street Closure Request: Is The Plan not a Plan? by Bob Wise and “H-E-B’s Street Closure Request: A Matter of Balance” by Pat DiGiovanni.]
“There is a reason why these issues are coming up more and more,” Mayor Julián Castro. “For the first time in a long time, things are happening downtown … what we have on the table is an opportunity to create a significant amount of jobs in the core of our city.”
Mayor Castro recognized the anger of many King William residents near the closure but sees H-E-B’s master plan as an important step to achieving SA2020 goals.
“It’s more personal when you live on that street,” he said. “(But) I’m mayor of the entire city, I have to think of the best interest of San Antonio.”
District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal offered the same confidence that the closure and H-E-B’s commitment to street and traffic improvements will result in a more robust neighborhood economically. Bernal cited the migration trend of residents and businesses away from the inner city and sees the addition of 1,600 jobs by 2030 a way to start the reversal of that trend.
Main Access Coalition (MAC), a neighborhood organization rallying against the closure, will continue to look into possible legal action to prevent the closure despite the council’s ruling, said lead organizer Charlotte Luongo after the Planning Commission meeting Wednesday.
“We’re not done yet,” said H-E-B’s Director of Public Affairs Dya Campos. There’s still opportunity for public input in the design process of the grocery store – which will also go through the Historic Design and Review Committee – and the city will appoint a committee to oversee the street improvements.
“When the store opens on the first day, it’s not going to be perfect,” Campos said. “But that’s normal … after we build a store, we’re always making little changes … this one will be no different.”
Both H-E-B and City representatives say they hope the participation in upcoming meetings will be strong and productive.
Full disclosure: H-E-B is a sponsor and advertiser on the Rivard Report, and Director Robert Rivard is building a residence on E. Arsenal Street on a lot purchased from H-E-B several years ago.