STATESMAN EXCLUSIVE: H-E-B buys Twin Oaks center at Oltorf, Congress

Grocer says it doesn’t have specific redevelopment plans in mind yet, doesn’t comment of future of current store nearby.

In a significant South Austin real estate deal, grocery chain H-E-B has purchased the Twin Oaks Shopping Center, a decades-old, 10-acre property at South Congress Avenue and Oltorf Street — catty-corner across Congress from one of H-E-B’s oldest and most popular Austin stores.

San Antonio-based H-E-B — the dominant grocery chain in Central Texas — confirmed to the American-Statesman that it closed Wednesday on the purchase of the Twin Oaks center at 2315 S. Congress Ave.

The purchase price was not disclosed.

H-E-B said it does not yet have a specific redevelopment plan for the aging shopping center, and that it will hold onto the property as it considers its options.

“This unique land acquisition opportunity provides H-E-B additional flexibility as the company considers long-term growth options for H-E-B’s South Congress store, one of the company’s oldest and most beloved stores in Austin,” the company said in a written statement. “H-E-B has no current plans for redevelopment at this time. H-E-B will honor the lease terms of the current Twin Oaks Shopping Center tenants.”

ARCHIVE VIDEO: 1955 video touted Twin Oaks as cutting edge shopping center. Watch here

Current tenants at the Twin Oaks center include a CVS store, a dance studio, a Subway sandwich shop and other retailers.

Leslie Sweet, director of public affairs for H-E-B, said it can take years for a new store to come to fruition.

“It will take us many years to even evaluate opportunities in this location,” she said of the Twin Oaks property. “We build all our stores with great intention and it’s a multiyear process, whether it’s a remodel or (building) a new store.”

When the Twin Oaks property came on the market, Sweet said H-E-B’s real estate team “decided it would be a good property to hold and increase our flexibility for options down the road.”

“We are not committed to develop this site. We may not use it. There are many options we need to consider, but we decided to act quickly to gain control of the opportunity while it was up for sale versus miss out on expanding our flexibility for future growth,” Sweet said

“We don’t plan on changing anything at this time,” she said.

Beau Armstrong, president and CEO of Austin-based Stratus Properties, said he expects that whatever H-E-B decides to do with the property “will undoubtedly be a huge success and an asset to the surrounding neighborhoods.”

“They always get it right,” said Armstrong, whose company has partnered with H-E-B on developments in Lakeway, Killeen and Magnolia.

H-E-B declined to comment on what might become of its existing store at Congress and Oltorf, which opened Sept. 1, 1957. That store is 69,000 square feet and “is quite small and under a lot of shopping pressure,” Sweet said.

“We may leave the store as is… there are hundreds of options,” Sweet said.

Sweet said the company does not release traffic counts for its stores.

In 2007, H-E-B marked the store’s 50th anniversary on Congress. When the store opened, it had just over 25,000 square feet, but was the biggest grocery in Austin back then. It boasted a self-service meat department and nine checkout lanes.

Today H-E-B has 50 stores in Central Texas, including 23 in Austin.

H-E-B’s stores can range in size from the 40,000-plus range to more than 100,00 square feet. In 2010, H-E-B opened a new store with 102,000 square feet on East Riverside Drive, replacing an older, smaller store on the site that at the time was one of the five busiest H-E-B’s in Central Texas.

In South Austin, H-E-B owns land at Interstate 35 and Slaughter Lane where it plans a store that Sweet said is in the design process. The company also owns 65 acres along U.S. 290 for a potential future store.

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