Op-Ed: H-E-B’s Combo Loco
Published: November 6, 2013
On the other hand, complete streets stimulate the economy. The National Complete Streets Coalition reports, for example, that improvements in the street grid in the Capitol Hill district of Washington, D.C. helped lead to the opening of 44 new businesses and 200 new jobs. In addition, sales for businesses in the improved area have more than tripled.
A high level of walkability also improves the economy. Walkability refers to how easy and safe it is for a pedestrian to move around an area. High walk scores are correlated with a decrease in crime, a decrease in obesity and an increase in property value. In fact, according to a study done by George Washington University School of Business, increasing a Washington area’s walk score by six points directly led to a 67 percent increase in the area’s economic performance.
According to WalkScore.com, San Antonio’s current walk score is 40.8, which is the lowest walk score of any other U.S. city that is close to San Antonio’s size. This walk score indicates it is hard to get around the city if you don’t have a car. The walk score for my section of South Main, on the other hand, is currently 77—highly walkable.
Closing down a block of South Main Avenue will significantly lower this walk score. The economic damage that will be done by decreasing this walk score will not be immediately obvious to city council members when they go to vote on this issue. It’s not a number that can be readily calculated. But it is telling that many relevant current City plans and documents point out the importance of Main Avenue and complete streets in general. Streets such as South Main Avenue with its sidewalks and bike lanes are critical to the City’s urban revitalization plans.
Now, in order to get that magic “silver bullet”—a downtown grocery store—the City appears to be willing to violate or alter the objectives of the Lone Star Community Plan, Major Thoroughfare Plan, Transportation Plan and more. Closing South Main is also counter to the mayor’s SA2020 goals for a healthier, more accessible, pedestrian- and bicyclist-friendly downtown.
“I think the grid is a really critical issue here—keeping the grid open and alive and breathing,” says Nye. Interestingly, Piland inadvertently agreed with her, saying at a meeting that took place three days later, “There may be a need for two downtown stores: one in the north part of downtown and one in the south part of downtown, because it’s not easy to go from south to north through downtown.”
Exactly, Mr. Piland. Let’s do what we can as a city to try to improve the situation, not make it worse. Let’s keep South Main Avenue open—open to citizens, open to growth, open to the future.