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H-E-B's Updated Downtown Plan Still Leaves Residents with Questions


H-E-B and representatives of the city met Wednesday with Southtown citizens concerned about a deal to bring a grocery store downtown, at the cost of closing a street. The King William association and the anti-street closure group mainaccess.org are working to protect their neighborhood.

The size of the proposed grocery has been increased from between 6,000-8,000 sq. ft. to over 10,000 sq. ft., one of the city's biggest requests. In addition, H-E-B would cede some of its current property to improve sidewalks and increase pedestrian areas as well.

“They are proposing some public improvements that will provide bicycle and pedestrian paths on Flores,” says Lori Houston, San Antonio's Center City Development Office Director. 

Houston says the city feels H-E-B is on the right path, but until the results of a traffic impact analysis associated with the grocer’s request to shut down S. Main Street to traffic are known, the city department won’t be making any recommendations on the incentive package the city has been negotiating with H-E-B, which also includes a million dollar payout from the city to H-E-B.

But it's the traffic, not the million dollars, that has area residents concerned. Max Martinez, the president of the King William Association, says:

“The King William area... is a residential district. We have families. We have kids. We take our kids out for walks. We take our kids out for bike rides. And that's the fear, that the increased traffic is going reduce the quality of life we enjoy.”  

Despite the increase in store size there are still unanswered questions on what product lines will be available at the downtown location. Will it be an actual grocery, or just a large convenience store? H-E-B was contacted for this story, but declined to make any comments on the updated proposal.

With a closed S. Main Street, neighborhood residents also worry about pedestrian access to downtown…one Southtown resident emailed Texas Public Radio, stating “I live in Southtown and many folks are upset with the idea of a gated compound between us and downtown.  It is our only safe bicycling street.”

Seniors trying to access the city-owned Commander’s House would have to add around a quarter mile to their trip as a result of a closure.  Max Martinez and the King William association have asked H-E-B to consider maintaining pedestrian and bicycle access.

“There’s some seniors that walk to the Commander's house and there are seniors that are on wheelchairs that go to the Commander's house, so for them to go that extra quarter mile or so around,  down arsenal and down Flores and then back up to the Commander's house is a little much,” says Martinez.

According to Lori Houston, the traffic impact analysis will be complete by early November. Then a planning commission will be consulted, which will be a public meeting. Only then will the Center City Development office make a recommendation to city council.

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive