Two commercial developments planned for Harker Heights could be a huge boon to the southeast portion of the city.
But they also could produce headaches for local motorists.
The proposed developments — Hudson Heights and Stillhouse Lake Road Shopping Center — received preliminary City Council approval last week. Both will be built on the southwest corner of Knight’s Way and Stillhouse Lake Road, diagonally across from Harker Heights High School.
And both are bound to draw a lot of traffic to the area.
The concept plan for Hudson Heights envisioned as a 200,000-square-foot retail and office center. The preliminary plat for the nearly 10-acre Stillhouse Lake Road Shopping Center includes a 40,000-square-foot Walmart Neighborhood Market, though no official announcement has been made.
According to Walmart’s website, the Neighborhood Market stores offer meat, dairy products, a bakery and deli, household items, health and beauty aids, and a pharmacy.
Given the development’s location and the growth of the surrounding area, a Walmart grocery store would likely see brisk business — and that would mean heavier traffic. Add to it the customers heading in and out of the adjacent Hudson Heights complex, and you’re talking serious congestion.
City Manager Steve Carpenter acknowledged at Tuesday’s council meeting that the intersection is already a problem. He said project managers graded the current traffic flow at a D, with F being the lowest rank possible.
Councilman Spencer Smith also had concerns, warning that traffic would likely back up to the south along Stillhouse Lake Road.
Still, there are some significant pluses associated with the new commercial properties.
The opening of a third Walmart store in Harker Heights — along with the Walmart Superstore and the nearly completed Sam’s Club — would be a major commitment to the community by the retail chain.
Neighborhood Markets employ about 95 associates, according to the Walmart website. Along with the number of jobs generated by the other businesses in the two developments, the potential boost to the local job market is significant.
The impact on the city’s property tax base and sales tax revenue also would be considerable.
The developments may offer a glimpse of the city’s proposed Knight’s Way thoroughfare overlay district, which calls for a comprehensive set of standards for building aesthetics, landscaping and streetscaping, among other categories.
Hudson Heights will reflect some of these concepts, such as wide sidewalks and dedicated turn lanes. It also will feature a large, open green space to act as a buffer with the adjacent Skipcha Mountain Estates subdivision.
Both commercial projects are a departure from the trend of businesses locating along U.S. Highway 190 — a needed change if Harker Heights is to evolve toward more neighborhood-centered commercial development. Carpenter told the Herald the development anchors the area for possible mixed-use neighborhoods.
In encouraging such development in other areas of town, city officials must make sure those areas have the infrastructure necessary to support it.
The traffic and congestion likely to be associated with the two new retail centers will be aggravated by the developments’ proximity to Harker Heights High — particularly before and after school.
With that in mind, officials must make safety a top consideration when examining issues such as traffic flow, ease of access and pedestrian visibility.
Carpenter said he has asked the Texas Department of Transportation to further analyze the roads in the area of the proposed developments — a good first step.
Looking ahead, these developments eventually could be among the city’s most prized commercial jewels.
It would be a shame if traffic problems were to steal some of their shine.