Editorial: Food fight between residents and supermarket chain leaves locals splattered

In a debate that has manifested in a matter of months, supermarket giant H-E-B is in negotiations to build a grocery store in the historic King William district. Residents opposed to the new addition contend that the popular retail store will inevitably lead to the gentrification of the area. They also worry construction will cause a portion of South Main Ave. to close to accommodate the expansion of the H-E-B headquarters.

The $100 million proposal would allow the construction of a new H-E-B store, along with a bigger headquarters located on Arsenal St. Currently, residents who enjoy biking and walking in the area are concerned over obstruction of property.

Urban development has stagnated in downtown San Antonio. There are limited options for residents within this area for groceries and produce. Having access to groceries might attract people to the downtown area. With the latest addition of lofts for rent downtown the only entity that is missing in this area is a grocery store. As a result of a new H-E-B, more people would be inclined to live downtown and would contribute to the efforts to revitalize downtown.

San Antonio needs to consider the benefits of opening an H-E-B in a central part of its community. The store will not only increase residency within downtown but will also boost employment. It is projected to provide jobs to over 1,600 people by 2030. These are jobs that could be given to current UTSA students who attend the downtown campus.

In a meeting in October, the King William Association Board of Directors rejected the proposal in a 9-3 vote. Therefore, residents were shocked when the board changed their vote 7-6 in favor of the new grocery store on Nov. 22. Since then, public outrage has ensued over the change of heart.

The board agreed to rethink their decision if H-E-B could provide substantial evidence that the store would not greatly affect traffic within the area. After an updated city-funded traffic study proved that the store would actually improve traffic conditions through South Main Ave., the board’s vote was swayed in favor of construction.

The newest addition will be built on the intersection of South Flores and César E. Chávez Blvd, which is only minutes away from the UTSA Downtown Campus. Currently, the closest grocery store near the downtown campus is on Nogalitos Street, heading away from the downtown area. Besides this location, residents must drive to either the Northwest side of town to the H-E-B store on Culebra Rd., or to the Southwest to reach the H-E-B Plus! on Zarzamora Rd. For those who are acclimated to organic produce, the only H-E-B affiliated organic market is the H-E-B Central Market, which is in Alamo Heights.

By building a new store in the downtown area, residents will be able to buy their groceries in an area close to them and from a store that they are familiar with. Proximity to local groceries is especially important for those who commute downtown using public transportation. Students who attend the downtown campus will also have the option of purchasing products on their way to class or as they depart on their way home. This might prove handy when students need to pick up last minute supplies for a presentation or when they are craving a snack that might not be offered downtown. In the long run, the store will provide benefits to other residents within its parameters as well as citizens who peruse the downtown area.

H-E-B has established itself as a positive force in the community with charitable donations and sponsorships to organizations inside the King William area and elsewhere. This proposal is just another way that the supermarket chain will provide service to the community while encouraging others to move closer to downtown. Plus as the company says in its commercials: “Here everything’s better.”

On Dec. 5, the council will meet again to settle an agreement on the H-E-B proposal.