King William Association Votes to Support Street Closure

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H-E-B's proposed "Flores Market" site plan courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects.

H-E-B's proposed "Flores Market" site plan courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects.

Iris DimmickAs the City Council vote approaches on whether to close and sell a block of South Main Avenue to H-E-B for its campus expansion, the grocery chain’s master plan has come into sharper focus. Despite design improvements and added amenities made in response to public feedback, and favorable traffic studies, some neighborhood opposition to the closure remains.

[Read more from local resident Michael Nye: “The Case For Keeping South Main Avenue Open.”]

Thursday evening, H-E-B representatives and David Lake of Lake/Flato Architects, presented an updated project overview for King William Association (KWA) board members before their meeting to discuss potential involvement in litigation that would challenge any street closure by the City of San Antonio. Main Access, the neighborhood coalition opposing the street closure, has begun to seek support for a lawsuit if City Council approves the deal.

UPDATE Friday, Nov. 22, 3:20 p.m. During their regularly scheduled board meeting, the KWA board voted 7-6 to no longer oppose the closure of a portion of S. Main Avenue.

The KWA board voted 9-3 in opposition to the street closure in October.

“In the beginning, we had no information,” said KWA Executive Director Cherise Bell during a phone interview this afternoon. “And now we had information with which to weigh consequences (and) solutions were provided to address concerns that were raised by the neighborhood.”

The updated master plan presented to the board revealed plans to enhance access to the Commander’s House, the size of the store has since been increased to 10,000 square feet, and street/traffic flow improvements outlined by the City-funded traffic study were key elements to changing minds on the KWA board, Bell said.

“We hope to continue to work with H-E-B and the City to mitigate the impact of the lost of that street,” Bell said. “We’re going to set up a meeting with the city to discuss the mitigation (projects) and make sure that those get implemented.”

Board members still in opposition of the closure simply don’t want to lose the direct access to and through the neighborhood that S. Main Avenue provides.

“People still want to have that direct access of the road,” Bell said.

The board also voted against a request by Main Access to assist in funding potential litigation.

The same presentation was given to the San Antonio Conservation Society board earlier this week. The board announced its support for the H-E-B master plan and street closure on Thursday, reported Neal Morton of the San Antonio Express News.

“The board decided to support the preservation effort to re-establish the contiguous historic boundaries of the Arsenal property,” the Conservation Society’s letter to Todd Piland, H-E-B’s vice president of real estate, states.

H-E-B master plan renderings courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects.

H-E-B master plan renderings courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects.

“We want to stay (downtown), and we want to continue to grow,” said Todd Piland, executive vice president of H-E-B real estate and facilities.

“The plan is to get everybody under the same roof (figuratively),” Piland said, like other major San Antonio employers such as USAA, Rackspace, Valero, and NuStar. “They control their environment and that is what we intend to do at this location.” H-E-B has cited campus continuity, security and employee safety as reasons for the closure.

Piland and Lake answered several questions form KWA members concerned with pedestrian, vehicle, and bicycle traffic flow logistics around the grocery store and gas station and clarified that H-E-B is open to continued community input in further design phases as it is a work in progress.

Rendering of the proposed H-E-B Flores Market (working title) courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects.

Rendering of the proposed H-E-B Flores Market (working title) courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects.

“It’s not going to be perfect … but we’re willing to work to overcome the challenges of an urban market.” said H-E-B’s Director of Public Affairs Dya Campos at the traffic study release meeting last night.

While many residents understand and appreciate the mitigation projects and street enhancements, they don’t make up for the loss of a public avenue to a private entity. S. Main Avenue as an open, street is just as historical as the Arsenal complex, those opposed to the closure said. The King William neighborhood, as an historic district, is especially sensitive to aesthetics.

“They are attempting to recreate a suburban campus in an urban environment,” said KWA member Rose Kanusky.

Though still not finalized, the plans include all traffic mitigation recommendations outlined in the city-contracted traffic study report that was released Wednesday evening. Those include a 30-foot wide amenities path for bikes and pedestrians on S. Flores Street between E. Arsenal Street and E. César Chávez Boulevard; a 17-foot wide bike and pedestrian path on adjacent E. Arsenal Street; removal and additions of traffic signals and stop signs, traffic calming mechanisms, etc. [Download the full report here.]

[Read more: “Traffic Study Finds Minimal Impact from Proposed S. Main Avenue Closure“]

Section of South Flores Street illustrating the 30-foot amenity path which includes space for pedestrians, trees, and a dual-directional bike lane. Rendering courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects.

Section of South Flores Street illustrating the 30-foot amenity path which includes space for pedestrians, trees, and a dual-directional bike lane. Rendering courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects.

The proposed closure of S. Main Avenue between E. Arsenal Street and E. César Chávez Boulevard is part of H-E-B’s $100 million plan to expand its downtown headquarters by 27 acres, hire an additional 1,600 additional employees by 2030 and build a two-story grocery store and gas station on the northeast corner of S. Flores Street and E. César Chávez Boulevard.

Another key element to the master plan is the renovation of the city-owned Commander House park, said Lake, which directly connects to the grocery store’s front yard. Lake/Flato has designed the grocery store’s main entrance to open on a landscaped parking lot in one direction and an open courtyard space with picnic tables, shade and the park itself in another.

H-E-B's proposed "Flores Market" site plan courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects.

H-E-B’s proposed “Flores Market” site plan courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects. Click to enlarge.

“We’re creating an urban market and enlivening experience for the park,” Lake said. “We’re not fond of closing streets. We looked at options for the site (including tunnels and skywalks) to see if Main (Avenue) could stay open.”

H-E-B’s growth and security needs can only reasonably be met with an “integrated campus,” Lake said the firm concluded.

Rendering of the proposed H-E-B Flores Market (working title) courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects.

Rendering of the proposed H-E-B Flores Market (working title) courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects. Click to enlarge.

The plan also calls for removal of the chain link fencing around the Commander’s House and restoration of the historic vehicle loop entrance to the building which will serve as public access to the property and a secondary H-E-B employee entrance.

Lake/Flato anticipates a wrought iron fence on the S. Main Avenue boundary, some extensions of existing stucco walls, and use of building exterior to make up the new (and historic) boundary of the Arsenal complex.

Creating a “more open character (and) a sense of transparency,” Lake said.

The $40 million Phase 1 of the development includes H-E-B’s culinary school and test kitchen across S. Flores Street, renovation of the 1601 Nogalitos Street store, construction of the “Flores Market” (working title), the S. Flores amenity zone, and Commander’s House improvements.

Section of E. Arsenal Street illustrating the 17-foot amenity path which includes space for pedestrians, trees, and a dual-directional bike lane. Rendering courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects.

Section of E. Arsenal Street illustrating the 17-foot amenity path which includes space for pedestrians, trees, and a bike lane. Rendering courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects.

Phase 2, estimated at $85-$110 million, includes new, multilevel office buildings with underground parking on the southwest corner of the Arsenal complex, creation of internal green space and courtyards, San Pedro Creek improvements and development of remaining mixed-use buildings off Flores.

Despite H-E-B property and projects stretching outside the historic Arsenal complex boundaries, Piland told concerned KWA members that company officials would not request additional street closures.

Whether or not the neighborhood can profitably sustain a 10,000 square foot grocery store remains to be seen, Piland said, but H-E-B is optimistic that Flores Market will be successful. And if it’s not?

“A going out of business sign on the front door of our headquarters?” Piland laughed, “Never going to happen.”

 

Iris Dimmick is managing editor of the Rivard Report. Follow her on Twitter @viviris or contact her at iris@rivardreport.com.

 

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.

 

Related Stories:

Traffic Study Finds Minimal Impact from Proposed S. Main Avenue Closure

The Case For Keeping South Main Avenue Open

The Case for Rethinking South Main Avenue

H-E-B Briefs King William Neighbors on Expansion, Proposed Block Closure

The Feed: Two Guys Aim for Downtown Grocery Stores

Small Footprints, Big Impact: How to Make a Million Dollars Stretch across Center City

State of the Center City: More Housing, Fewer Vacant Buildings

 

8 thoughts on “King William Association Votes to Support Street Closure

  1. I’m all for this happening but my question is why doesn’t HEB incorporate the market so that it is at the intersection of Chavez and Flores? In other words, why not flip the design to have the market right at the intersection and the fuel station further down Flores (in the spot where the design calls for the market to be). This way the market gains more exposure along a busier street and can be highly visible if the proposed srteetcar happens.

  2. Thanks for this!

    As a small side note, putting the Flores Market right on the corner would not only increase it’s visibility, but also support urban design principles. The building behind the parking lot is the classic suburban design that downtown is trying to distinguish itself from. I’d encourage flipping the Flores market design 180 degrees.

    As another side note, connectivity to a store could be really good for arsenal employees. I consult with grocery store chains around the country and all of them talk about how surprised they were when they merged their offices in the same building with a store. The store become not only a daily shopping experience but also acted as a ‘think space’ to conceptualize, try out and experiment with new ideas.

    As another side note, another way of providing urban design along with flow, openness, and security is to grow upwards – in the classic urban way. Whole Foods’ central HQ in downtown Austin does this in a way that invites everyone to their campus (but not to the upper flores where the offices exist). No fences and total security. They built a huge store that the demographics indicated couldn’t be supported and scratched their heads and the sales skyrocketed far beyond their wildest dreams. I think this could happen in SA too!

    Good things happen when people go the extra mile and show some pride in their work.

  3. I will state the reasons I am both for and against this, with the former first: I work at USAA (but live by candlelight coffeehouse) and this will be no ‘suburban campus’ that HEB is proposing. I understand the residents are interested in keeping (recent) historic appeal to the neighborhood- but would they really rather have what they have now, but also including the prospect that HEB could be gone, compared to having a closed street but: an urban grocery store, a park, a gas station, a culinary school and test kitchen, Commander’s House improvements, San Pedro Creek improvements, mixed-use buildings AND 47-ft wide of total pedestrian and bike space on the property!! My god, people. HEB is giving a lot to make this more than just a glorified gas-station as some of you would call it. I will say however, that Amazon in Seattle and other much bigger companies have downtown campuses expanded across buildings with roads between them with no security problems. In this capacity, I disagree that HEB needs to make this a security issue and should allow roads in between its campus as other downtown corporations if at all possible. It seems they prefer the closure more for the added space. I would prefer they make it work by building a high-rise on a lot for their offices and keeping Main open. But they don’t seem interested in this, so I would rather the street be closed than lose the opportunity completely.

  4. Will the dedicated bike lane on Flores be the first of it’s kind in San Antonio?

    I’ve only seen them in New York and in newspaper stories about their implementation in places like St Louis.

    • There is a cycle track on Avenue B just south of the Pearl. It is poorly designed, subject to standing water days after rainstorms, and it leads nowhere, which will be the same problem with the H-E-B cycle track on South Flores. It will be nice to have on that block, but a “complete streets” solution the length of S. Flores and other major arteries leading in and out of downtown is the real long-term solution to promoting safe cycling and reduced vehicle traffic in the urban core. Cycle tracks also should be part of VIA’s streetcar system as they are in other cities. –RR

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