February 6, 2013

Fort Worth council clears path for H-E-B on southeast side

A spokeswoman for the grocer says it's too early to say whether it will build on the property.

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FORT WORTH -- City Council members quickly approved a southeast-side rezoning case Tuesday that has triggered big buzz about H-E-B opening a supermarket in the city, but a company spokeswoman cautioned that any development could be some time off and might not happen at all.

The council unanimously approved the rezoning of nearly 3 acres at 4211 E. Rosedale St. and Miller Avenue to allow for neighborhood commercial uses and a mini-warehouse. H.E. Butt Grocery, based in San Antonio, had requested the rezoning, outlining a potential 55,000-square-foot grocery store, warehouses and a 2,550-square-foot office building in the proposed Rosedale Marketplace.

Panther Llc. in Fort Worth owns the land, an 8.5-acre site. The city zoning commission recently approved the rezoning and sent the case to the council.

H-E-B spokeswoman Leslie Sweet tamped expectations.

"It's way too early in the game to know if we would build a store on this property and, if so, what format that would be," she said.

Buzz about H-E-B -- a leading grocer with stores in Burleson, Cleburne and Granbury, as well as Central Markets in Fort Worth, Southlake, Dallas and Plano -- has moved into high gear in the retail-hungry southeast neighborhoods. Nearby, city officials celebrated the opening Friday of a Wal-Mart off U.S. 287.

"Already, the neighborhood is buzzing about it being an H-E-B store, and it might not be developed at all," said Heather Senter, a spokeswoman in Fort Worth for H-E-B's Central Market stores, adding that the company sent a note to Mayor Betsy Price, who has been publicly touting H-E-B.

Sweet said H-E-B often buys real estate years ahead of construction. She confirmed that H-E-B is under contract to buy the East Rosedale piece.

The company isn't saying what store format it is considering. It has several: the traditional H-E-B; H-E-B plus!; Central Market; Joe V's Smart Shop; and Mi Tienda. The stores on the Tarrant County periphery are traditional H-E-B stores, Sweet said.

H-E-B plus! is a grocery store format with additional departments, such as "Texas backyard." Joe V's caters to cost-conscious customers, and Mi Tienda is a Latin-inspired market. The company has phased out its smaller H-E-B Pantry stores.

All the formats can fit in 55,000 square feet, Sweet said.

The company, which dominates markets such as San Antonio and Austin, has been creeping into the periphery of the Metroplex for years but has been wary of the intensely competitive metropolitan grocery market.

When Central Market celebrated its 10th anniversary in Fort Worth in 2011, Central Market executives said that they expected a smaller version of that high-end store to be the focus of H-E-B's urban growth in the Metroplex for the foreseeable future.

Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808

Twitter: @JScottNishimura

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