Grocery giant H-E-B has secured a permit to build a $20 million store on South Valley Mills Drive expected to open in the fall and become the largest in Waco, a spokeswoman for the San Antonio-based chain confirmed Thursday.
Plans call for a 120,560-square-foot main store, a 20,000-square-foot retail shell adjacent to it, a fuel station and a carwash, said Bobby Horner, a plans examiner for the city of Waco, who confirmed that drawings for the proposed grocery have been filed at Waco City Hall.
H-E-B in 2011 acquired and demolished the old University Middle School and bought houses and businesses nearby, piecing together an 11-acre site at the corner of Interstate 35 and South Valley Mills Drive.
H-E-B spokeswoman Tamra Jones said site work has picked up steam.
“To confirm, H-E-B will build a new store on South Valley Mills Drive/IH 35 and is set to open in fall 2013,” Jones said in an email to the Tribune-Herald. She said H-E-B continues to tweak plans for the site and soon will release more details.
H-E-B in 2011 spent about $13 million to expand its Bellmead store, making it the largest in the Greater Waco area at 114,000 square feet. It became one of H-E-B’s “Plus” stores that sells an array of general merchandise that customers might find in a department store.
Leslie Sweet, who oversees media relations for H-E-B, said the new store will become Waco’s “flagship” location that will include features not found elsewhere. She said specifics such as whether the store will carry the “Plus” designation have yet to be determined.
She said, “I can tell you it is going to be a fabulous store.”
Bellmead’s H-E-B employs between 300 and 400 people, but Sweet said she is not yet prepared to comment on the staffing levels at the South Waco site.
The H-E-B store at Valley Mills Drive and Dutton Avenue, which opened in 1991, will close with the opening of the new store.
The 52,491-square-foot building on 5.8 acres recently was placed on the market for $4 million. Any transaction would include deed restrictions barring the sale of grocery, fuel and pharmacy items.
That site is located directly across Dutton Avenue from Floyd Casey Stadium, the home of Baylor University football. Play there will cease as Baylor is building a $250 million stadium on the north bank of Lake Brazos, scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.
Joeris General Contractors, which has completed projects valued at more than $3 billion in its hometown of San Antonio, will serve as general contractor on the new Waco store.
K. Paul Holt, president and CEO of the local office of the Associated General Contractors of America, said he will lobby Joeris to make liberal use of local subcontractors.
H-E-B officials have said the new South Waco location will have space available for use by restaurants and retailers.
The new H-E-B soon could see a companion in attracting traffic to I-35, Valley Mills Drive and Bagby Avenue.
Edge Development now has under contract the old University High School complex that became University Middle School when H-E-B demolished the former middle school. Edge reportedly will close on the deal in July, after the school year ends, and will place a sprawling retail center there.
H-E-B and Edge then could have dueling, or complementary, retail and grocery attractions for the public to patronize.
Already the dominant grocery chain in Waco, H-E-B is positioning itself to strengthen its grip on Waco shoppers.
But it is not without competition. Aldi, a Germany-based chain, recently opened a no-frills store at Valley Mills and Wooded Acres drives.
Shoppers sack their own groceries, pay a deposit on carts and receive sizable discounts on merchandise, much of it carrying Aldi’s own labels.