The San Antonio City Council wrapped up 2013 with a very contentious vote Thursday involving one of the state’s largest employers.
Council members gave HEB the green light to expand their downtown headquarters located in the King William Historic District.
“What we have on the table is an opportunity to create a significant number of jobs in the urban core of our city and to create a downtown grocery store that I believe will be a further catalyst to the revitalization of our downtown,” said Mayor Julian Castro.
The project has outraged residents in the King William District because the expansion would cut off access to South Main Avenue between East Cesar Chavez and South Arsenal Street.
Residents blasted city council members, accusing them of bowing to corporate greed.
“This city is no longer a true democracy. It is being controlled by corporate interest that is using misinformation and propaganda to hoodwink citizens,” said King William resident Charlotte Luongo.
Luongo helped gather some 2,000 signatures from resident opposed to the plan.
HEB estimates that the expansion will create 800 new jobs by 2030.
The plan also includes the construction of a downtown grocery store.
Residents said the project will not improve traffic conditions in the area and called for the city to wait until next year to vote.
The King William Association board of directors initially opposed the plan before reversing course, in a 7-6 vote, to no longer oppose the plan.
The group has asked HEB to provide several landscape amenities for residents impacted by the closure of South Main Street.
District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal represents the area.
His constituents said his fears that HEB would leave San Antonio if the project was rejected amounted to extortion, but Bernal said he has a responsibility to support economic growth in the inner city.
“(The project) brings professional jobs and potential residents to the inner city and strengthens the inner city,” he said.
There were no “nay” votes, but Councilmen Rey Saldana and Ron Nirenberg abstained from the vote.
The development agreement is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.