Urban Escape: An ExxonMobil Video Tour and Explanation for Its Enormous New Houston Forest Campus

Yes, ExxonMobil “values the environment.” That’s why the company is building this 385-acre pedestrian-friendly campus with an “urban vibe” — in the middle of the forest 20 miles north of Houston.

Video: ExxonMobil, via Loren Steffy

32 Comment

  • Driving down 45 to Conroe, it does not appear that there is much forest left that way anyway, thanks to the drought.

    As for the Exxon headquarters, it just seems all so dreary and typical. A bunch of low slung buildings on a “campus”. Anyone remember Compaq? It’s just boring.

    I’m sure the big shots who only have to commute from The Woodlands will be very happy with it, but that entire part of town is already a cluster you know what.

    Another reason to never leave the inner loop!

  • Very cool video and quite an impressive complex. Will it be the right move in the long run? Here’s one take:


  • here at Exxon_Mobil we put safety and the environment first, that’s why we’re making our employees commute on the most dangerous road in town and have chosen a location that eliminates any option for them to use mass transportation to get to and from work.

  • That first aerial view of the proposed campus shows dense forest growing right up to the buildings. And no roads. Like it just fell there. Like once you’re in you can never get out again.

  • Joel sounds like a disgruntled young employee who expects the company to cater to everyones needs. Who wants to work where there is a busline! geezzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • It probably makes sens to consolidate Exxons various operations in Houston in one location, but it is a chame they had to wipe up acres of forest to do it. Such is progress.

  • Having read the article posted at ‘Square Foot’, it strikes me that the author lacks perspective on the subject matter. It’ll be at the interchange of two freeways, within METRO’s service area, within easy striking distance of The Woodlands Express, and close to IAH without being asssociated with all the negative connotations that come with Greenspoint. On average, this location is actually closer to where most employees of the Greenspoint area actually live (Source: Census LEHD).

    The fact that the site is not currently served by transit probably doesn’t matter; there’s no transit service yet because there isn’t anything THERE yet.

    I also dispute the idea that the professional world revolves around recent college grads (although I recognize that the kinds of young people that read this article and bother to form an opinion that they think everybody wants to hear about…well, those people are self-absorbed and probably disagree with me).

    I’m thinking that better-compensated middle-aged employees with children are the greater concern. They’re worth more; they move around a whole lot less frequently; and by and large, they’ve already structured their lives around living in north Houston. So there.

  • I’m thinking that better-compensated middle-aged employees with children are the greater concern. They’re worth more; they move around a whole lot less frequently; and by and large, they’ve already structured their lives around living in north Houston. So there.

    Exxon will do what is best for exxon. I doubt swamplot knows more than them.

    Sad about the trees and habitats though.

  • Pity that Exxon didn’t demonstrate actual concern for community and the environment by buying up 7 parking lots and/or dilapidated structures in downtown Houston to build their ‘urban’ campus.

    That would have been something worthy of the CoH blowing TIRZ/mgmt district/380/misc. other funny money on, but of course when it comes to grand vision, Houston politicians never can seem to get their act together.

  • We’re excited to have a great community so close to this great new campus at Northcrest Village! Thanks for sharing this update!

  • Why is everybody crying about the trees? Do you complain when a housing developer razes tree in order to build a totally boring starter home community? Most of these newer communities have no vegetation at all.

    As for the campus, it does look quite interesting and exciting. And no, I’m not for killing the environment. Let’s be honest, though. There are countless ways individuals kill the environment by not recycling, not carpooling, wasting energy, etc.

  • @ Bobby Hadley: What is astounding is that you’d prefer to offer them subsidies if they’d whore themselves out to your personal vision of your community rather than having them locate on a site that will feed the tax base of your community without your community having to go through the expense or hassle of providing them almost any services at all. The City of Houston won out big time on this one.

  • Once again a Houston corporation has fled the core to create urban sprawl. The oxymoronic ‘urban campus’ in the woods is symptomatic of a refusal to deal with the existing cityscape. There is a reason why people outside of Houston hate Houston. If land use restrictions here made sense, there would be some incentive to redevelop areas where massive infrastructure improvements are already in place, i.e downtown Houston with new roads, utilities, metro line, cultural amenities and a growing residential population. How interesting that Chevron has consolidated US operations into the Houston CBD, as well as British Gas, at the same time that Exxon departs for the same neighborhood as Gallery Furniture. To use the cities resources to provide employees, but turn your back on the city to develop your workspace is just not acceptable to young professionals. This move will ultimately hurt Exxon in recruitment. The CBD will recover quickly since other firms are not so misguided.

  • @jesse james:

    I can’t see how this would hurt ExxonMobil’s recruitment.
    Option one: Shiny new state of the art campus within 10 minutes of sprawling community, with restaurants, movie theaters, bars, and affordable homes.
    Option two: Dilapidated old buildings in gunspoint with no restaurants, retail, or safe places to walk for 15 miles in any direction. Or downtown, in dilapidated old building in need of millions of dollars of repair, with offsite parking, and few window offices.

    I think ExxonMobil will be fine.

    Oh and @joel (#3), please tell me what public transportation people use to get to Greenspoint, that they’ll miss out on at the new campus? You’re looney if you think people move to or live in Houston for the public transportation options.

  • Metro has a significant amount of bus routes in the Greenspoint area. It doesn’t go anywhere near the new campus.

  • @uhhhh
    I’m fairly confident ExxonMobil employees are not the ones taking those buses. They don’t exactly have a Woodlands-Greenspoint/Greentspoint-Heights express route set up.

  • jeez guys, i try and be helfpul by pointing out gaps in Exxon’s stated HSE goals that haven’t been addressed directly and i get harassed here.

    i’m well aware that Exxon has done a thorough cost-benefit analysis on the location and employee retention (100% of course, you go where the pension goes) to ensure they can meet their goals within their target operating margins, but i faile to see why any random commenter on the internet should take that into consideration.

    location is a perk though, and there are competitors that would gladly locate employees within close proximity to all the amenities this city has to offer and compensate their employees for using mass transit. if you think there’s a sufficient amount of middle age folks to support this industry then it certainly calls into question why oil companies continue to bid against each other for highly qualified new grads and overpay to keep the gray-hairs from retiring.

    i just recognize that the O&G industry is very much a non-american industry and i would like to see more young & talented americans currently heading off to san fran, seattle, nyc or the like to locate themselves in more creative cities with better infrastructure and commercial offerings to be pulled to our humble abode to help diversify and bolster houston’s status.

  • i guesss that makes me selfish though, right?

  • @TheNiche “What is astounding is that you’d prefer to offer them subsidies if they’d whore themselves out to your personal vision of your community rather than having them locate on a site that will feed the tax base of your community without your community having to go through the expense or hassle of providing them almost any services at all. ”

    XOM locating their campus in The Woodlands will in the long-term do nothing to feed the tax base of my community (i.e. Houston), because the last time I checked, everyone (including the idiotic City of Houston) was on board to allow The Woodlands to incorporate. Sooner rather than later.

    On the other hand, as others have stated, a massive campus construction project in downtown Houston would have a lasting substantial impact on the tax base in my community. The economic impact of a campus of that size in downtown Houston is easily in the hundreds of millions of dollars in additional tax revenues over the lifetime occupancy of the campus.

    A campus of even half that scale in downtown Houston would reshape the urban environment of downtown Houston and likely have a multiplier effect on other capital improvements taking place in the city core.
    I get a healthy suspicion for New Urban utopian prognostications, but I’m equally inclined against building more Sugar Lands, Katys, Cypresss, Pearlands, and the like.

    I’ll end by reiterating my original point (which really had nothing to say on The Woodlands–people there can do whatever they want) that we really have some awful politicians in city government when they’re willing to give taxpayer dollars to the Kroger corporation so that Kroger can cover a nice swath of the Heights in pavement and ‘create’ 100+ poverty wage jobs, yet they can’t/won’t come together somehow to get out in front of gigantic projects like this one, which if located in downtown, would retain/create high-skill/high-income jobs while improving the urban condition and financial position of the city.

  • joel: I would expect that many of today’s recent college grads will start raising families within about a decade. I would also expect that ExxonMobil’s campus will be used well beyond that time horizon.

    I can understand why a mid- or small-sized domestic company without awesome pensions, benefits, or brand recognition might lease space for five to ten years with a recruitment strategy targeting the younger generation of workers. They have to compete with the likes of XOM right now! And when that generation grows up, if they’re still around, they have the option to move with it. Exxon’s position differs.

  • @Bobby Hadley, the site of the campus isn’t actually in The Woodlands, it’s in unincorporated Harris County. And if history is anything to go by, it will be annexed by Houston, or will pay tribute to Houston equal to the taxes the City would assess. The City is very aggressive at seeking out taxpayers who don’t vote.

    Just where would you put your “Urban Campus” that would have the security that a suburban site offers, along with the trees and other amenities?

    And it’s reasonably likely that North Harris County will be less affected by hurricanes, floods, etc than anything inside the loop. I wouldn’t be surprised if that played a part in the decision.

  • Aha Ross!
    Yep, after Exxon/Mobil and other private monies build infrastructure, Houston will annex.

  • Exxon does not require the security provided by North Houston’s pine trees. Most American corporations find ways to conduct business in urban settings.

  • If I were in charge, I know that I’d have probably located it in The Woodlands. From what I hear on Swamplot, the place is jam-packed with sluts.

  • It’s the schools. Having the ability to settle in neighborhoods with good public schools that can get your kid ready for a university is more important than the glamour and urban renewal aspects of siting a company inside the Loop.

    And about those trees. Those are shit trees. I know because I grew up around them, they’re second growth pines that shed pine needles half the year, and disgorge nasty pollen for weeks. They’re not Sequoias. They’re not the original Big Thicket and old growth pine and cypress species. I hate those pine trees.

  • @Ross

    I would just say that the 20+ Fortune 500 corporate tenants that anchor downtown Houston (including, I believe, XOM)seem to do just fine in spite of the lack of pine trees and the occasional stray hurricane.

    With regards to the annexation prospect, even if that were so, though I highly doubt it since the city doesn’t actually seem very keen on exercising ETJ rights these days (i.e. The Woodlands), the property tax revenue from a campus in a suburban setting versus downtown setting would undoubtedly be lower. And again, having the campus located in downtown would have a multiplier effect on other things like sales tax revenue and property valuations of surrounding properties downtown.

  • The pine trees don’t provide any security, but the distance of the buildings from any entrances to the campus provide a buffer against attacks by truck bombs and the occasional eco-terrorist (Greenpeace has invaded XOM property on several occasions). A campus in the downtown area can’t provide much protection from either of those.

    There are lots of suburban campuses in other cities. Chevron is in a suburban setting in San Ramon, California. Texaco’s HQ was in White Plains, NY. IBM has campus style locations in a number of places. I saw a number of campus style settings in Chicago. It’s not that unusual.

  • It would be so cool if the price of oil would tank again and drop down to around $10/barrel. Screw XOM.

  • Thanks, Ross – I knew that “The Terrorists Are Gonna Win” card just had to be in this deck somewhere.

  • Hey TheNiche,
    You know why the utilities are buried underground in The Woodlands?
    Because if there were visible poles half of the rich housewives in town would not be able to resist swinging on them, for old times sake.

  • I see nothing wrong with XOM making the move to the Woodlands area. It now creates a third energy corridor in the Houston metro area, and a different environment in which to recruit. CBD has Chevron, BG, Shell, El Paso, Enterprise, etc. Woodlands now will have Anadarko & XOM. BP and service companies are located on the weest side. Now you have can have real options on living close to where you work – and the type of lifestyle that you want.

  • I am surprised by the personal agendas expressed in some of these emails. I was looking for straight forward opinions but I see political correctness clouding much of what could have been a meaningful discussion.