With rumors of plans for a downtown Austin H-E-B floating around but no official confirmation of when or where it might happen, we had no choice but to ask our readers where they’d stick one if they could. The major scuttlebutt is that the beloved Texan grocer will adapt an existing downtown building to serve its needs, but owing to the shifting sands of the rumor mill we decided to ask two versions of the same question — one for an existing building, one for a new building.
The major takeaway from this survey is that people see a lot of promise in the former post office at 510 Guadalupe Street — and they hate how underused the building currently is, serving only as a glorified parking garage. We’ve written at length about this structure’s potential and frustrating vacancy, and though our respondants are torn regarding whether the building should be retrofitted as an H-E-B or fully redeveloped, a solid 15 percent of people taking our survey named the defunct post office as their site of choice — the single most popular response we had.
The second most popular answer was the Hobby Building not too far from the old post office at 333 Guadalupe Street, scooping up about 10 percent of our answers — most on the side of reusing the existing structure and its underground parking, but a few believing we could tear it down and start over. We admittedly juked the stats on this one by naming it as a potential option in our earlier post, but we’re still pleasantly surprised to see how many people believe the building has architectural merit and should be updated to serve a new generation of people instead of rats.
Another candidate for adaptive reuse mentioned by several folks was the state parking garage at 300 San Antonio Street, right next to Republic Square. A parking structure seems like a good candidate for the space requirements of a grocery store, considering the uninterrupted size of its floor plates and parking capacity on the floors you didn’t convert. It would be very forward-thinking of H-E-B to work its magic on a parking garage occupying such a walkable, central site — mark that one down, please!
“Somewhere near the train station. Perhaps that abandoned warehouse on Cesar Chavez. Needs to be somewhere we can get to without a car.”
“Block 52, below grade or on the first level of an absolutely enormous tower with a thousand residential units and some office space for HEB. There could be an escalator leading directly down to a transit hub built through project connect. This would help provide a solution to our worsening housing crisis, allow people from all over the city to reach the store, and bring affordable groceries to downtown. On a full block with no CVCs, the sky is the limit, and HEB could bring in a Texas starchitect to design a world class landmark building. How’s that for a statement piece? One can dream…”
“As much as I adore the run-down swing-set and abandoned swimming pools of Palm Park, I often feel like this plot of grass is a waste of space! You’ve got the Fairmont, Hilton, new Marriott downtown, and multiple residential buildings that are deprived of walkability to grocery stores. Sure, there’s the Whole Foods and Target on 5th, but who wants to walk across the highway just for a few things! Palm Park has accessibility to I-35, Cesar Chavez, the convention center, major hotels and RAINEY STREET. These people need a place to grab some toilet paper or beer! While lots of Austin folks would hate to say goodbye to a historic park, I feel an HEB here could take our eyes off that eyesore of an IHOP.”
“Cesar Chavez and Trinity, where there’s currently a warehouse. It’s roughly equidistant from the dense residential areas on West 2nd and Rainey — connected to the trail (good for their pioneering into bar/restaurant ventures) — and maintaining vehicle access from a major road. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are strong anchors west of Guadalupe, so keeping the HEB east of Guad seems logical — especially because Rainey is booming with new residents with no grocery store other than Royal Blue (assuming the homelessness and poor pedestrian infrastructure crossing over to Plaza Saltillo will discourage walking to the new Whole Foods Market and Target).”
“14th and Lavaca. Central to downtown and West Campus. Student population NEEDS this. Expanding population in Museum district/north End. West ave is only frontier and more housing will expand. Rainey is land locked. Whole Foods near by. West End has Whole Foods and Trader Joes.”
“300 San Antonio St, Austin, TX 78701 It’s a giant space serving just as a parking lot that could be transformed into a multilevel H-E-B right next to so many amenities to draw in customers, including the nearby condominium dwellers and Republic Square”
“Vacant Post Office at 510 Guadalupe. (Pending no plans for a tower on this site. Obviously I’d prefer to see something VERY tall built instead) At 61,734 square feet, the existing structure could be retrofitted to a grocery store. The location is perfect – if Project Connect is green lit, it would be adjacent (or even connected underground) to the Republic Square rail station. This spot would serve a growing number of residential projects under construction or already built. (6X Guad, Hanover)”
“I think that the current Texas Lottery Building would be perfect. Multi story so plenty of square footage, street parking, even if limited, city garage across the street, mass transit trains a block away, hotel traffic, lots of new residential buildings, each access in and out on 5th, 6th, and Red River, and places to put restaurants on the part of the building facing 6th.”
“Palm School. great location (Saltillo, Rainy, IH35 access for trucks). It would help preserve the building in a shorter form. Feel like that side of DT is a food desert. revitalizes the park out back. it would be a similar outcome to Central Market. Would love it.”
“The Hobby Building is such a great choice. It has loading opportunities on 3rd and 4th Sts, existing ramps for underground parking, is on all the bus lines, and is a dope building.”
“The County and ATM banking facilities on Lavaca/Guadalupe, between 10 – 12th Streets They have Capital view issues, are very underused, and would be easy to access by bus, bike, scooter, car and (soon) light rail.”
“Parking garage south of 6xGuad. It’s such a waste of space, and there could probably be a way to implement creative-reuse to turn that ugly thing into something useful to the community.”
“Hobby Bldg is very interesting but the building at 201 Colorado (currently google fiber) may be a good reuse candidate. It appears to be expandable and has adjacent parking that could be incorporated. A very “tight” and urban location though.”
“Pease Elementary School – assuming that AISD closes it down and sells it off . Also a big property, and could see HEB possibly reusing that building. It’d be close to more housing.”
“The convention center. Lease it while plans for a new permanent store are drawn up. What else is going on in that building right now?”
“Old Austin Public Library at 8th/Guadalupe St. This building is currently underused, central dt location, mass transit accessible, parking garage across the street, in the CVC.”
A few last “wildcard” options we heard that sound fun — the old Faulk Central Library building, the former Texas Lottery Commission headquarters, and the gorgeous New Deal structures at 124 West Eighth Street and 200 West Eighth Street, arguably underused by the city and county respectively for administrative functions at present.
Finally, just out of curiosity we asked our readers whether a downtown H-E-B would change their lives. Here’s what we got — and we know it would change ours:
“Yes. Despite working from home, my office is downtown and having an HEB would just be more convenient in general.
“Yes! Makes urban living far more practical.”
“Not at the moment but if I was still working downtown it would be nice to walk in to pick up my lunches and bring it right back up to the office without needing to stock up on Sunday night and bring them in from home.”
“Affordable groceries all in one place within a mile of where I live would save a lot of time.”
“Yes! I would have everything I need downtown without having to drive outside of it on a regular basis. I might be able to get rid of my car!”
“Yes. It would nice to be able to buy groceries downtown without having to take out a loan.”
“As someone who works and lives downtown and does not have a car, this would change my world. I could pick up items during breaks at work or from my home depending on location.”
“Yes. We live in East Austin and hoped a grocery would go at 12th and I35. There is still nothing walkable to us despite our proximity to downtown and our supposedly “walkable” neighborhood.”
“Previously yes, but after COVID-19 not so much. My office already has plans to move locations away from downtown to a different office, but also to continue primarily telework situation. I don’t see myself going to a downtown grocery story unless it has something to draw me in further like a great pub/music thing going on with great views.”
“Yes, it would make it easier to for many Austinites to car-free. I do not live downtown, but I imagine many downtown residents own cars simply so they can go shopping at H-E-B/big box stores, which are all located outside of the core.”
“It would be huge for me – I don’t do shopping at Whole Foods (price/selection) or Trade Joe’s (selection) for just basic grocery shopping, but not having a car makes the East 7th HEB more trouble than you’d think.”
“Absolutely. Living downtown, you can’t go fully car free without a grocery like HEB. We still get in the car to go to Congress or the east side for groceries.”
“I don’t live downtown, but I work downtown. I’d love to pick up stuff after work!”
“YES! Trader Joe’s simply doesn’t cut it. And even if I wanted to blow my paycheck at Whole Foods, I don’t want to support amazon. 🙂 It takes so long to get to an HEB from downtown.”
“Absolutely. We shop at TJ’s a lot of the time but have to go to HEB for real food now and again and it’s one of the few reasons left to keep a car.”
“Totally. Currently we drive to any of four depending on what’s in stock…Riverside, South Congress, 43rd St, or Mueller. None is convenient. Royal Blues are convenient, but horribly stocked and priced – they are the equivalent of an upscale 7-11.”