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

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H-E-B's proposed site plan.

H-E-B's proposed site plan.

Iris DimmickA draft of a South Main Avenue traffic study released Wednesday night reported minimal impact to the neighborhood traffic flow should H-E-B’s request to close the street be granted. Minimal impact, however, is dependent on mitigation projects and improvements to surrounding streets.

The study also shows that the level of service the remaining streets provide improves in all but one intersection within the quarter-mile radius.

[Download the full draft study report here.]

“If the street is closed, H-E-B will be required to fund the improvements,” said Lori Houston, director of the Center City Development Office (CCDO). Houston estimated that these could add up to as much as $4 million.

From the South Main Avenue traffic study draft presentation.

From the South Main Avenue traffic study draft presentation.

The proposed closure of South 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 and host about 1,600 additional employees by 2030.

“It’s our goal to create a complete, secure campus,” said H-E-B’s Director of Public Affairs Dya Campos, who outlined H-E-B’s continued efforts to restore the historic grounds of the Arsenal.

H-E-B has cited employee safety and campus security and the company’s need for an expanded campus in seeking the street closure.

H-E-B's proposed site plan.

H-E-B’s proposed site plan highlighting a new employee entrance off of E. César Chávez Boulevard.

The study, completed by the national firm Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc., comes in response to a passionate protest to the street closure by neighbors in the King William Historic District and the Southtown area.

Main Access, the neighborhood coalition against the street closure, has begun to seek support for a lawsuit against the grocery chain if the closure is approved by City Council next month.

In order for the closure of South Main Avenue to have minimal impact on surrounding traffic patterns, several improvements must be made by H-E-B. The most prominent of which is the 30-foot "amenities" path for bikes and pedestrians on South Flores Street.

In order for the closure of South Main Avenue to have minimal impact on surrounding traffic patterns, several improvements must be made by H-E-B. The most prominent of which is the 30-foot “amenities” path for bikes and pedestrians on South Flores Street.

About 50 area residents, many members of the King William Association, gathered at SAY Si to hear the results of the study, which was met with general skepticism as the study contradicts the commonly held belief that Main Avenue is a “main thoroughfare.”

According to the study, on an average weekday the block in question of South Main Avenue hosts about 60 pedestrians, 70 bicycles, and 4,500 vehicles – most of which is H-E-B employee traffic. The master plan for H-E-B’s campus includes an additional employee entrance off E. César Chávez Boulevard. These numbers have increased significantly since construction work on South Alamo Street began in 2012.

Manually recorded bicycle traffic at South Main Avenue intersections.

Manually recorded bicycle traffic at South Main Avenue intersections. For example, three bicycles entered the block northbound in the morning, but none left, implying that they either went to H-E-B or the Commander’s House.

Many residents cited the aesthetic and psychological impact of allowing a “superblock” in a historic, residential neighborhood and the principal of the matter of losing valuable public space.

“H-E-B is a company we’re so proud to have in our neighborhood,” said local resident Naomi Nye. “I still feel there is an alternative way to make this a win-win-win for everyone … H-E-B has been a hinge in our neighborhood for so long – but hinges swing open and shut, they don’t hold up walls.”

Nye cited college and corporate campuses she recently visited in New York City, “people safely walk across streets all the time.”

H-E-B’s Senior Vice President of Strategic Design William Triplett spoke of the design process and how it’s been a process informed by internal and external feedback for months.

“We did look at a lot of different options about how the company can evolve and grow,” Triplett said. “We’re just adding a lot more people,” but those people need space.

Many questions and comments were directed towards Campos and Triplett in regards to the proposed 10,000 square foot grocery store at South Flores Street and César E. Chávez Boulevard and H-E-B’s master plan. The grocery chain representatives deferred many questions for a more comprehensive presentation to the King William Association’s public board meeting Thursday at 5 p.m. (1032 S. Alamo St.).

I’ll be attending that meeting and will further explore the community’s, City’s, and H-E-B’s positions on the closure tomorrow evening.

 

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:

UPDATED: Public To Hear Results of City’s S. Main Avenue Traffic Study

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

  1. I don’t mind closing the block to vehicles as modern urban centers should be focused on increasing walkability over drivability. But why not allow a walk/bike trail through the campus in place of the street? I wonder if most major corporate headquarter campuses are secured against outside access? It would be nice if they went more in the direction of a college campus which maintains fairly high security, but is open to the public.

  2. I’m sure the city ensured that that report did not include the impact on the people who actually live on that street. Next HEB will ask for S. Flores to be closed. The city should expect a fight on their hands.

    • If anything, it will probably make your property values go up. Plus you won’t have to drive to the grocery store anymore, you can just walk.

  3. Adding a 30-foot bike path sounds pretty sweet. There is already so many safe ways to get through that area, that I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

  4. We need a grocery store downtown. I have been down to the purposed area and the idea of closing that street is awesome. Is not a big deal to drive around.

  5. This street closure happens to remove a “short cut” for those using the street. Even if only a few thousand cars a day use the path, they will have to find a new way to the destination using other streets. No, problem, right? It is not until you find Cesar Chavez to be heavily trafficed by re-routed people that you will notice the route absent. The further point is that they want to make S. Main a “complete street”. So you have a renovated, enhanced, elaborated path from Main Plaza South to the HEB gate. So much importance in a Boulevard that goes nowhere…

    Mark E. Kellmann, Architect, NCARB
    San Antonio, Texas

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