A 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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.