Pinehurst lands ‘new neighbor’ in H-E-B
By Dave Rogers
For the Record
Pinehurst is set to welcome a new neighbor.
And maybe even a Pied Piper for economic growth.
The city council celebrated Election Day by voting unanimously on economic development incentives to bring a new H-E-B grocery store to the vacant MacArthur Shopping Center on MacArthur Drive.
Additionally, council voted to create a reinvestment zone around the new H-E-B store that would grant property tax incentives to people that want to build or improve that area.
“We signed the resolution tonight making it official that H-E-B is going to be our neighbor here,” Pinehurst Mayor J.J. “Pete” Runnels said, announcing the wrapup of months of behind-the-scene negotiations between city staff and the San Antonio supermarket chain that operates more than 350 stores in Texas and Mexico.
“We’re looking forward to being a part of this community,” said John Rose, Senior Due Diligence Officer for H-E-B, a privately held company ranked as the 12th largest retailer in the United States, based on 2014 revenues.
Code Enforcement Officer Harry Vine, who assisted City Administrator Robbie Hood in negotiations, said the city looked at the H-E-B deal as a win-win, providing a much needed service for citizens and an economic driver for future business growth.
“I’m sure that with this announcement there will be a lot of people wanting to be next to H-E-B,” he said. “They are like a giant magnet. I look at this like planting a giant oak tree that’s going to produce a whole lot of acorns.”
Vine confirmed the old Sears store was the proposed site for the new grocery.
H-E-B operates a Pantry store on North 16th Street. Vine said the new MacArthur Drive store would be at least 68,000-square feet, which would be twice the size of that. For comparison sake, the new College Street H-E-B in Beaumont is 64,000-square feet.
“One of the things we need to recognize,” said councilman Dan Barclay, “is this is a company with a reputation second to none who already knows our community. And they’ve chosen to expand their presence in this community.
“What this really means for the whole community,” Barclay said to Rose, “is you (H-E-B) guys know us and you’ve decided to increase your presence here. We appreciate it.”
Vine said the new store would employ between 250 and 300 people. But he said it in a way that suggested H-E-B might be looking to shutter its 16th Street store after it opens in Pinehurst.
“That could be some new people, probably some of the old people who are still in this area,” Vine said of the new store’s employees.
He was asked if that meant the store would move its employees from the old location.
“We’ll just have to see how that develops,” Vine said.
Nothing is happening in store operations for a while, according to Vine.
Asked the timetable for opening the new store, Vine said: “That’s a really good question. What they’ve told us is this is usually anywhere from a two- to three-year process.”
Rose was not available for interviews, having departed mid-meeting with an associate who met with council members in an early-meeting closed session that lasted about 15 minutes and preceded council’s vote.
Asked about the city’s incentive agreement, Vine said, “H-E-B Corporation is going to put in and pay for out of their pocket things that will improve infrastructure for the city. That’s going to include a traffic light, some water improvements, some other things.
“Then once that is completed, once they are open, we will rebate to H-E-B a portion of the sales tax they create.
“So this is not any money we have to spend, which is wonderful. And it will also bring money into the area, and into the city coffers.”
Jessica Hill, the executive director of the Orange County Economic Development Corporation, was at the meeting to recruit a new Pinehurst representative for her board. She clearly liked the city’s deal with H-E-B.
“From the county’s perspective, we’re excited about new development and new growth in Orange County,” she said. “Obviously, the residents are going to benefit from a new store at this capacity.”
The reinvestment zone adopted by the council covers an area bounded by 28th Street, MacArthur Drive and Adams Bayou, including all the currently used or vacant storefronts on the north side of MacArthur Drive and some unimproved land north of those sites.
Among other action taken by council Tuesday night, a unanimous vote added Pinehurst to the list of cities adopting a proposal against the use of Orange County funds toward the proposed Vidor Loop, or FM 299. The cities of Vidor, Orange, Bridge City and West Orange previously passed a similar list.