Our last blog post talked about “black box” projects. ExxonMobil just disclosed a new project that has been in the Black Box for several years: Project Delta. According to the company’s press release, Bryan Milton, president of ExxonMobil stated:
“This new campus provides an opportunity to consolidate many of our Houston offices in one location, which will provide a high-quality working environment as our employees continue to support ExxonMobil’s mission of delivering energy to meet growing global needs. The complex will be constructed to high standards of energy efficiency and environmental stewardship, and will promote new opportunities for employee collaboration in their daily work.”
ExxonMobil’s press release continues:
“It is expected that most employees working in the corporation’s Houston Upstream head office activities, along with ExxonMobil Chemical Company and various staff support services, will be based at the campus. Employees will move in phases as the buildings are constructed, beginning early 2014. Full occupancy for Houston-based employees is expected by 2015. Construction and ongoing operations will create thousands of jobs, substantial state and local taxes and significant benefits to the Texas and Houston-area economy.
“The decision to proceed with the campus resulted from a study of the corporation’s office requirements in the United States. Further study will determine whether any other U.S. office locations will be located at the campus in the future.”
Teams both inside and outside of the company have been working undercover in the Black Box for several years to make this project a reality. This is a very big deal with tremendous implications on the construction community in Houston.
Rumors have been rampant for a couple of years before the announcement that Exxon was going to do something in Houston. My favorite pastime was to ask my colleagues in economic development, real estate, architecture and construction whether they and their firms were working on “Project Delta.” Invariably their answer was either, “I can’t talk about it” or “I don’t know anything about it.” In both cases I added the names of their firms to my personal list of firms who might be working on it. And in the professional design offices rumored to be involved, heavy drapes or new walls went up to house the design teams for a secret project that folks could not discuss with anyone, not even their families.
Speculation grew that the project was in the 3 to 4 million square feet range though company reps currently say that it will likely house 8,000 employees with support facilities that will create a great working environment and “room for more.” There were rumors in the residential real estate circles that families from Virginia were looking for houses in the Woodlands, the 32,000 acre planned community north of the site that was developed by George Mitchell of Mitchell Energy. Many of them currently live in the other new town, Reston, Virginia near the old Mobil campus. (It was noted in the Houston Chronicle last week that the Howard Hughes Interests just purchased the remaining 50% interest in the Woodlands that they didn’t already own.)
The new ExxonMobil campus will be located on a site in Springwoods Village, a 2,000 acre mixed-use community in the woods just south of the Woodlands that is being developed by DCD Houston, Inc., a subsidiary of Coventry Development Corporation of New York. The plan includes 3,500 to 5,000 housing units and supports recreation, education, hospitality and other uses, according to the sales brochure.
So, ExxonMobil has done it again and the folks in the construction sector here, particularly in the Gilbane/Harvey families are happy that another Black Box project is “out of the box.”
The construction of the project will create thousands of construction jobs, some speculating that it might take up to 35% to 40% of the total available construction teams in Houston. ExxonMobil is known for their long range planning and their timing in Houston could not have been better for our industry.
And now I am looking around again in search of another “Black Box” project that might be working under the name of Sherlock or some other interesting name. Maybe Apple would be a good name!