The evolving design for H-E-B's downtown grocery store was approved Wednesday by the Historic Design and Review Commission: Flores Market has expanded in size and features a less-visible fuel station at the expense of connectivity to the adjacent Commander’s House Park.
Construction of Flores Market, H-E-B's smallest store by about 50,000 sq. ft., is expected to begin this summer and open by the fall.
City staff recommended that an additional pedestrian entrance off South Flores Street be included in the design in order to comply with the Downtown Design Guide. William Triplett, senior vice president of strategic design for H-E-B, said that entrance will be added.
Another concern staff brought up in their recommendation is that the store's parking lot and fuel station lighting may spill over into the park. Triplett told HDRC members that lighting fixtures would match the old-fashioned, large bulb-style street lighting on South Flores Street that will not interfere with the surrounding viewshed. A schematic of how light will be managed from the parking lot and fuel station was requested from staff for the next round of more specific conceptual designs from Lake/Flato Architects.
Flores Market will occupy the southwest corner of what is now H-E-B headquarter's parking lot. The 12,000 sq. ft. Flores Market is a key component of the grocery chain's $100 million corporate headquarters expansion plan which includes the one-block closure of South Main Avenue. City Council unanimously approved the closure and plan in December 2013 amid protest from some nearby residents.
Street improvements that include traffic mitigation/signals and bike/pedestrian paths on surrounding streets and entrances to the headquarters, store, and Commander's House should be completed within the next couple of weeks. H-E-B will then close South Main Avenue north of East Arsenal Street, probably in February, And begin expantion of its Arsenal Street headquarters to accommodate 1,600 new employees by 2030.
Construction has already begun on the new facility's entrance.
The Council-approved proposal was based on an 10,000 sq. ft. store, but designers worked to increase its size "based on community interest to have larger store," Triplett said. The gas station also was moved further back from the street towards the park.
"If you're in the park, I can pretty much assure you, you won't see the gas station," Triplett said. It's low enough and surrounded by sufficient landscaping to barely be visible. "But you are going to see a wonderful piece of architecture (the top of the grocery store)."
The site plan includes a dining patio, 50 parking spots, four gas pumps, and landscaping.
Commissioners, while disappointed that the most recent concepts featured a market courtyard less connected to the Commander's House Park, were generally satisfied with the plan.
"This is an overall improvement," said HDRC member Michael Connor, who agreed that reduced park connectivity for a larger store was a good call. Moving the gas station away from the street, he said, allowed for a greater focus on store architecture and landscaping instead of gas sales.
Commission Chair Tim Cone complimented the building's design.
"Rarely do we push for larger buildings, but I think a larger grocery store (is needed),” he said. "(Through the corner) windows you can see through to the park ... so even if you don’t walk into the park, you have visual engagement.”
The design concepts were approved by all six Commission members in attendance that didn't recuse themselves. There are 10 members currently serving on the HDRC, each appointed by a district Council member and the mayor. The District 2 position is vacant.
*Featured/top image: Landscaping and site plan for Flores Market. Rendering courtesy of H-E-B.
Read more about the South Main Street closure and H-E-B headquarter master plan here.