To call Exxon's Project Delta and the Springwoods Village that goes with it "huge" or "massive" or "enormous" would all be understatements. I'm not sure I've seen so many construction cranes on one project. So here's another label some have slapped on the campus under construction north of Houston: "Utopian."
The Texas Observer has a lengthy piece on the development that calls the plan "eerily familiar".
From the Observer:
The 1,800 acres of forest surrounding the charred strip club is currently being thinned to make way for Springwoods Village, an eco-themed master-planned community boasting Exxon as its anchor. Though the company’s Irving headquarters will remain, by 2015 Exxon plans to have consolidated about 10,000 workers from offices in Virginia, Ohio and Houston into this new corporate sanctuary. Along with New York City-based Coventry Development Corporation, Exxon is creating a company town from scratch.
A dozen cranes tower over the pines, and freeway signs direct construction trucks toward the site, code-named Project Delta. When it’s complete, the campus will boast a design intended to reflect the company’s “value set and culture,” according to a company video presenting a digital model of the development. A cluster of low-rise buildings surrounded by treetops will form an “urban vibe” core. The campus’ main building—its gateway structure—will be composed of what look like large glass blocks, one of which will extend, almost hovering, over a placid lake. Employees will walk leafy promenades beneath transparent awnings, not a car in sight.
So why is this "eerily familiar"? The piece goes on to compare Springwoods Village to another one of Exxon's past ventures in Southeast Texas:
Houston is full of “cities of the future” like Springwoods, developments once trumpeted as the new way to live and work, only to be replaced a few years down the road by the next best thing. Just look to Greenspoint—12 miles south of Springwoods—built and conceived decades earlier by Exxon’s Friendswood Development Company.
Today, the first thing that strikes one about the Greenspoint area is the almost desolate mall and its oceanic parking lot. It was here that, in 1991, an off-duty deputy sheriff was abducted and murdered, and her Ford Aerostar burned. The notorious crime helped solidify the area’s unfortunate modern moniker, “Gunspoint.”
Just years earlier, Greenspoint area ads had boasted, “We’re right in the middle of Houston’s future. Come look us over!” The development, then on the edge of Houston’s bulging northern perimeter seven miles from George Bush Intercontinental Airport, was closer in vision to Shell’s “City of Tomorrow” than to Exxon’s future campus: freeways, curtain-walled towers, and the eponymous mall.
When I mentioned to a friend that we at Construction Citizen are watching Project Delta unfold, that friend mentioned that the giant Swiss bank UBS tried something similar in the New York City area ten years ago. The New York Times now reports that UBS may move its North American headquarters back to the city, mainly because they're having a really hard time getting young recruits to want to live in the suburbs. That may not be the case here in Texas, but I've heard from some people who passionately say big oil may not have any better luck.
What do you think? The comments section is all yours.
Image courtesy of Business Wire