Want an HEB in the neighborhood? Then you need to have a seven-acre piece of land, solid demographics and density, and an intersection with a lot of traffic. That’s the gist of my conversations over the last week with a variety of retail real estate types, who spoke with the understanding I wouldn’t quote them by name.

Said one: "There are a lot of dead bodies, like Food Lion, who came into this market and got hammered. But if you’re going to do it, this is a great time. Real estate has never been cheaper, and there are a lot of spaces available."

After the jump, a few thoughts based on those conversations:

• This is a sensitive subject for many in the real estate business, and several didn’t want to talk about this, even off the record. This may be because they don’t want to take any chances of offending HEB, which can bring a pile of money their way during a very slow time.

• Almost everyone has heard HEB is coming, though they were less certain about when or where. Several said more or less the same thing: If and when HEB does come, they’ll have done their homework. "They don’t build stores in sites that don’t work," noted one man.

• What kind of store might we get? How about something similar to the HEB store in Houston on Buffalo Speedway, which is a cross between a Central Market and a traditional HEB? The story that I linked to has several pictures of the Buffalo Speedway store. This seems to be the format HEB is using for urban neighborhoods like ours — it’s called an HEB name center, as in HEB Buffalo Market.

• So where in the area might HEB go? The following is just an educated guess, based on my interviews. HEB has said it won’t discuss this subject with me. But the empty Whole Foods at Preston and Royal came up a couple of times, with the caveat that it might not be big enough. Don’t count too much on HEB taking over any Albertson’s, I was told. The latter chain has pruned its poorly-performing stores in the area, and the ones left make money.


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