The Historic and Design Review Commission approved design plans Wednesday for a new state-of-the-art tech center to be constructed on the H-E-B campus downtown.

The 170,000-square-foot structure will house 1,000 H-E-B employees as the grocer consolidates and expands its tech and e-commerce division in San Antonio. Construction is set to begin in summer 2020 and be completed in 2022.

Designed by local architecture firm Lake Flato, the tech center will serve as the new front door to the historic corporate campus and be built on a surface parking lot at H-E-B’s headquarters in the Arsenal historic district. Last summer, the company completed construction on a six-level employee parking garage that accommodates 750 cars and connects to the campus with a sky bridge that crosses César Chávez Boulevard near Dwyer Avenue.

Plans for the tech center, which were first announced in August, show a structure built of materials that incorporate design elements found in other Arsenal buildings, including limestone, glass curtain walls, metal facade panels, terra cotta screening, and wood accent elements.

The interior floor plan will feature collaboration areas, individual work spaces, and meeting rooms equipped with advanced technology and video conferencing capabilities.

The five-story building will have community work areas along with conference rooms and individual work stations.

At five stories and 96 feet tall, the structure will exceed by 12 feet the height allowed under rules of the River Improvement Overlay, which is 84 feet. Commissioners agreed with City staffers, however, in approving the design because the building will not be located near any one- and two-story residential structures in the neighborhood or the San Antonio River.

But because the proposed height is not consistent with the Unified Development Code, H-E-B may be forced to request a variance from the Board of Adjustment.

The century-old grocer purchased 10 acres of the San Antonio Arsenal Complex in 1985, moving its headquarters from Corpus Christi to San Antonio and building new structures there in keeping with the historic character of the old buildings.

The company’s acquisition of on-demand delivery service Favor in early 2018 propelled the grocer into the digital arena. Today, H-E-B says it employs more than 5,500 people as part of the retailer’s H-E-B Curbside and Home Delivery teams.

In 2019, the company converted an 81,000-square-foot warehouse near one of its stores in East Austin into a home for H-E-B tech workers, disappointing those in San Antonio working to build the city’s tech ecosystem.

With the expansion of its San Antonio campus, the company has committed to adding 500 new jobs in San Antonio and relocating its digital employees working elsewhere in the city. The H-E-B Digital team currently numbers more than 1,000 at various locations in San Antonio and hundreds at its Austin site.

“We’re committed to hiring more people, adding the necessary skills to become both a better tech company and even stronger brick-and-mortar retailer,” said H-E-B President Craig Boyan when the project was announced.

The largest privately held employer in Texas, H-E-B operates stores throughout the state and northeast Mexico, and recently displaced Trader Joe’s as the best grocery store in the United States, according to an annual survey of 7,000 households by data science firm Dunnhumby.

Avatar photo

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.