- Shonda Novak American-Statesman Staff
Grocery chain H-E-B has purchased 17.2 acres near the Austin airport, the company confirmed to the American-Statesman, adding to its development pipeline in a growing part of the Central Texas region.
The tract, at the southeast corner of FM 973 and Texas 71, is H-E-B’s first land acquisition in the Del Valle area. The purchase price was not disclosed.
H-E-B said it doesn’t yet have a development plan for the site, most of which is part of a 390-acre swath zoned for a planned mixed-use development called Velocity Crossing.
“As we review our long-term planning options it often makes sense to purchase property in advance of our current real estate needs,” said Leslie Sweet, H-E-B’s director of public affairs for Central Texas. “Development in Southeast Austin and Del Valle has been encouraging and it made sense to invest in this land. We have a network of stores in East Austin, and we remain interested in this community and look forward to watching it grow and develop.”
H-E-B’s East Austin stores include locations off East Riverside Drive and South Pleasant Valley Road and off East Seventh Street. San Antonio-based H-E-B is the dominant grocery chain in the Austin metro area.
The property H-E-B has purchased in far Southeast Austin is in an area that’s primed for rapid growth. Metrostudy, which tracks the Austin-area market, says 55,916 new homes are in the planning pipeline for that area.
Developers have said the area has long been in need of more goods and services, with some referring to it as a “food desert” due to the lack of grocery stores.
“Whoever solves the food desert problem and gets a grocery store will win the 71/130 race,” local developer Pete Dwyer recently told the Statesman. Dwyer previously owned land near the Texas 71/Texas 130 toll road interchange.
In December 2014, a Texas limited partnership that includes Karl Koebel, Doug Launius and George Robinson III, bought the 390 acres for Velocity Crossing, with plans to develop a large mixed-use project. The city of Austin this year approved zoning for a variety of uses for the land, which the city had annexed in October 2013.
Having H-E-B as an anchor will kick start other development Velocity Crossing, which ultimately is expected to include retail, office, local arts and entertainment, apartment, hotel and industrial uses, Koebel and Launius said.
“We believe a sale to a major grocery store ratifies the strength of the location, and is a precursor for additional retail services within the Velocity Crossing mixed use development,” Koebel said. “The area is undergoing significant growth and we are pleased to be a catalyst of the rapidly expanding market.”
About $190 million in road improvements to Texas 71 and FM 973 adjacent to Velocity Crossing are nearing completion, Koebel said.
In November 2015, Austin Community College purchased an adjacent 124-acre site along FM 973, south of Velocity Crossing.