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The H-E-B South Flores Market is designed to appeal to a broad range of urban dwellers when it opens on Dec. 2: multi-generational families, Millennials who rent, people who prepare meals at home and want fresh produce, meat and fish, and customers on the run who want to pick up prepared food or a meal ready to pop into the microwave.
There will be 700 different wines and a selection of craft brews. Sushi will be made on the premises, and salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and dinners from Central Market will be available for takeout.
There also will be a wide selection of freshly baked goods and a coffee bar for morning commuters on their way to work, and a shaded outdoor patio for those in no hurry to get to the office. Walkers can bring their dogs and leash them outside after a stop at the pet water bowls. Bus stops are close by, there will be a bike rack with 12 slots, and 47 parking spaces. Drivers will be able to gas up on premises.
There isn’t room for a pharmacy, but the newly refurbished Nogalitos H-E-B is 1.7 miles away and its pharmacy offers delivery service.
The South Flores Market will stock all the essentials people seem to run out of at the wrong time: bread, milk, eggs, dog food, toilet paper.
Southtown is one of the city’s most socio-economically diverse neighborhoods, and if H-E-B planners have got it right, the new store at the corner of South Flores Street and César Chávez Boulevard will meet everyone’s expectations, all in the space of 12,000 sq. ft.
People have clamored for a downtown grocery store for years, but a lack of residential density made H-E-B and every other grocer wary of such a venture. Not any more. More people are moving into the neighborhood every day as former Mayor Julían Castro’s Decade of Downtown enters its second half, and now stands as a policy initiative that served as the catalyst for making the South Flores Market a reality.
Nearly a dozen multifamily developments and condo and townhouse projects are under construction or on the drawing board within a one-mile circumference of the store. The 300-plus unit Agave apartments on the north side of César Chávez Boulevard uses three sentences on its home page to market the property: “Walk to work. Shop at the H-E-B South Flores Market. Taste Trending Restaurants. ”
From projects like the 336-unit Flats at Big Tex and 229-unit Southtown Flats near the Blue Star Arts Complex to smaller projects along South Flores Street like the 67-unit Steel House Lofts and the 102-unit Peanut Factory Lofts on South Frio Street, developers say supply has yet to meet demand for urban-bound renters and buyers alike. Several developers have cited H-E-B’s decision to build the South Flores Market as central to their decision to move forward with new projects.
Weston Urban‘s plans to add hundreds of new residential units downtown and the Southwest School of Art‘s search for a partner to develop its available property all suggest that within five years there could be 2,000 more units within walking and easy cycling distance of the South Flores Market.
Joeris construction crews are in the home stretch of completing the project with three and half weeks to go, and it’s possible even now to tell a lot about the unfinished market.
South Flores Market was a collaborative design effort between Lake/Flato Architects and H-E-B’s own in-house architects led by Senior Vice President for Strategic Design Bill Triplett.
“David Lake and I worked on this design together, and we’ve done a lot of projects together over the years,” Triplett said. “They know form, and we know the retail business, and we had a lot of fun sitting together, sketching things, throwing out ideas, some we liked, some we threw back, it was a good experience.”
The result is an energy-efficient, LEED-rated building and fueling shade structure that is restrained in scale and appearance. The store’s interior and exterior functions are designed for low-water usage. The result is an attractive modern structure that fits naturally into the evolving H-E-B Arsenal campus and the surrounding neighborhood that is residential, commercial and industrial, and includes historic and contemporary residences.
The store’s brick walls complement the sturdy brick exteriors of the now-converted light industrial buildings along South Flores Street, like the Justin Candy Factory. Even the beckoning South Flores Market sign seems vintage. An inviting ‘living wall’ of ferns, grasses and violets will help cool the building while adding to the landscaping,
Triplett said he first saw a ‘living wall’ on a visit to Paris and became familiar with them as the handiwork of French architect Patrick Blanc.
“People ask if a ‘living wall’ has functionality because it is so beautiful,” he said, displaying photographs of a mature flowering wall at the H-E-B San Felipe store in Houston. “Plants do cool the building. Plants are great insulators.”
Interior bowstring steel arches support a high roof, with clerestory windows that make for a naturally lighted interior even on a cloudy day. A back brick wall awaits the installation of four large Chuck Ramirez photographs from the Southtown artist’s Brooms Series 2007. Ramirez, who died tragically in a bike accident five years ago, worked for years as a graphics designer at H-E-B headquarters. (Read more: Works by Chuck Ramirez to Adorn South Flores Market.)
Wood – old longleaf pine with a notable local pedigree – is the other showcase element.
“When you enter the store you will see wood elements,” Triplett said. “The company that gutted Joske’s department store approached H-E-B with the beams. Some of the primary structure and all of the secondary store structure is reclaimed longleaf pine from Joske’s.”
Joske’s opened in 1888 on the corner of Commerce and Alamo Streets, and many of the beams still bear the names of different San Antonio lumber yards in an era when there were dozens of different yards in operation.
Shoppers entering the store will be greeted by tables of fresh produce with glass doors displaying fresh breads, cakes, pies, and other baked goods. Smaller shopping carts, including pull-behind hand carts on wheels, will make store navigation easier. The interior floors are concrete and the exterior walkways and patio are paved with flagstone.
The South Flores Market will be open seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The first 500 shoppers on Dec. 2 will receive a complimentary canvass shopping bag bearing a Chuck Ramirez image from his Euro Bag Series 2009.
This article was originally published on Sunday, Nov. 8.
*Top Image: Senior Vice President of Strategic Design Bill Triplett walks towards the entrance of the H-E-B South Flores Market. Photo by Scott Ball.