Residents of the Lavaca neighborhood are voicing their displeasure with a 7-Eleven gas station that’s planned for a 1-acre plot of land along Interstate 37 between Florida and Carolina streets.
The parcel is owned by downtown developer GrayStreet Partners, which plans to sell it to Verdad Real Estate & Construction Services, a developer of 7-Eleven gas stations. Verdad has not yet closed on the property, according to attorney Ashley Farrimond, as reported by the San Antonio Report.
The one-lane, one-way Florida and Carolina streets act as a primary entrance and exit, respectively, for the Lavaca neighborhood and Southtown for motorists on I-37. Up and down the narrow roads are signs in yards that read “No 7-Eleven in Historic Lavaca.”
Hilda Juarez, a realtor who has lived on Florida Street, across from the site, for 2½ years, anticipated that a local business would occupy the land. Instead, she now fears the possibility of her home facing the gas station’s dumpsters.
“I worked really hard to get this home and to be part of the Lavaca community because it’s a historical district,” Juarez said. “It’s just a very San Antonio vibe, local vibe. Everybody helps each other, and to see a big name company like a 7-Eleven go in there after so much anticipation of, you know, who’s going to buy it, what’s going to come in here, it’s completely upsetting.
“And then to add to it, it’s going to be a 24-hour 7-Eleven, and it’s a big rig so they’re going to do services for the diesel trucks.”
The Lavaca Neighborhood Association was recently apprised of the potential sale and informed its residents.
Susan Richardson, who rents a home on Carolina Street, is concerned about traffic congestion.
“Despite several requests for somebody to intervene and slow down the traffic on our road, it hasn’t happened, and I’m just really concerned about the opportunity for … traffic issues and, not only accidents, but issues with wrong-way drivers and issues with heavy 18-wheelers trying to make turns,” Richardson said.
She’s concerned about first responders not being able to access the neighborhood with the potential for more traffic.
“I saw an 18-wheeler just trying to make a right-hand turn onto Florida the other day and it went up and over the curb and I thought it was gonna tip over … I don’t know that there’s been an in-depth enough traffic evaluation done on that.”
Juarez has also seen cars going the wrong way down the streets.
“It’s a huge safety concern. The street’s very small. We constantly have wrong-way drivers,” Juarez said. “Just in the four-hour span I was (working from home), I saw three people driving the wrong way. So imagine 18-wheelers coming off and trying to round that corner … it’s concerning.”
The empty lot, which GrayStreet Partners acquired in 2019, was a Fleet fuel station in recent years. The land is zoned C-2, classified as a commercial piece of land with the purpose of developing retail services.
Residents have been told the only way they can stop the 7-Eleven from being built is to find another buyer for GrayStreet Partners, Juarez said. She said there are residents in Lavaca actively trying to do just that.
Other concerns include potential gas and oil leakages, trash, increased noise levels.
“It’s always been a gas station for a very long time, but it didn’t have a lot of traffic. But it was a gas station, it was problematic,” said Cherise Rohr-Allegrini, president of the Lavaca Neighborhood Association. “Unfortunately, it’s also immediately adjacent to residences. If somebody was trying to zone a property like that next to a residence today, they wouldn’t allow it. Unfortunately, it was zoned like 30 years ago, 40 years ago, when nobody cared about these things.”
The Lavaca neighborhood, which was established in the 1870s, is populated with historic homes—a mix of Victorian cottages, and modern and craftsman-style homes. Because Lavaca is a historic district, the 7-Eleven’s design will have to be approved by the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC). It’s unclear when that might happen.
GrayStreet nor Verdad Real Estate & Construction Services did not respond to a request for comment.
“It would have to adhere to HDRC guidelines because it’s a historic (district) … they can’t have tall signage, they can’t have lights, they can’t do a lot of things that are typical of a 7-Eleven,” Rohr-Allegrini said.
Rohr-Allegrini said the 24/7 nature of a 7-Eleven is not conducive to a neighborhood, but a potential retail development with businesses that have more traditional hours of operation could be.
“While a store of some sort would bring traffic, it would be tolerable if it has normal business hours and it would serve the community” she said. “This 7-Eleven is meant to draw interstate traffic. It’s meant to get people off the highway and back on the highway.”
Although some residents of the Lavaca neighborhood are not against a business development in the neighborhood, a convenience gas station was not what they hoped for.
“I’m not opposed to something going in there, even at a much smaller scale than what they’re actually planning, something else that would serve the community a lot better,” Juarez said. “You know, a coffee shop or something local, something that says Lavaca.”
Valeria Torrealba is studying public relations and business administration at Texas State University, where she also serves as opinion editor of The Texas University Star. Follow her at @valtorrealbaa on Twitter.
Heron editor Ben Olivo contributed to this report.