Comment of the Day: ExxonMobil Takes the Forest

COMMENT OF THE DAY: EXXONMOBIL TAKES THE FOREST “[It’s] awesome, but I thought the era of building suburban office campuses was close to gone. Not anymore, I guess. Just goes to show that there is still plenty a land for Houston to sprawl, and this illustrates no signs of slowing down. God that third outerbelt is just going to catalyze more of this crap (albeit ExxonMobil’s campus is pretty crap). I mean, if ExxonMobil really wanted to, they could’ve revitalized an entire swath of area in one of many industrial parts of Houston. No, but instead of utilizing an area that could be purposeful, they chose to destroy the environment. Yeah, Houston’s forests in the north are what keeps the area looking bad, but just a few more decades of this, and there will be nothing left to conceal this disgusting sprawl.” [Carlos, commenting on Welcome to the Land of ExxonMobil: A Tour of the Company’s New North Houston Campus]

31 Comment

  • Seriously?! “Revitalizing an industrial area” = moving to a part of town the city has already demonstrated a lack of concern for. Have you ever been East of Downtown? Making your employees drive through panhandlers and passed out bums is not a great way to attract talent. God bless sprawl – it makes Houston unique!

  • There are way too many people in Houston now who are so full of themselves, their heads about to explode with feelings of self righteousness about how green they are, how they live in a small old bungalow they saved from destruction, how they take public transportation, or drive a Prius, how Houston should be like NY, or LA, how they only eat local organic food only etc…they think if its not in the loop its dead to them, and if its not their exact vision of a perfect building then its some generic suburban sprawl. They despise everything new and degrade it is a Mc. (fill in the blank)development. Corporations and profit are evil and only the government , and conveniently themselves, know best.
    Thankfully these snobs are not the majority in Houston yet, though as their utopias such as LA, NY, Chicago, and Detroit all fail they bring their same failed ideas with them as they flock to the few places that have managed to keep them out long enough to still actually have a functioning economy….

  • You don’t have to go “East of Downtown” to “drive through panhandlers and passed out bums”, you can find that most anywhere in town.

  • Scott… You got it. This concept of revitalization is not the answer to every question. How about bulldozing the industrial area and bring the trees back to downtown so the panhandlers have some shade. This way they can continue to bath in the fountains and defecate in the doorways of businesses.

  • Third Ward is NOT for sale.

  • In a just world, ExxonMobil would have to put its new campus on a superfund site near one of its ship channel refineries so they would both clean up an oil industry mess and fully understand the environmental impact of their product.

    But, oddly, this development is actually not sprawl and is actually a very environmentally sound way to develop a large office complex in Houston (but for the deforestation). Had they crammed this development into a brownfield near downtown, they would have just added tens of thousands of cars to the already clogged highways, which would mean more smog and CO2. But, by developing away from the City center, they make it possible for people to live very close to where they work as there is abundant housing in the area. Smart growth for Houston will increasingly mean moving businesses out to the suburbs to minimize travel times. And, ironically, rising oil prices will make this much more of a necessity than environmental concerns.

  • 1 VOTE for MARKSMU’S Comment as Comment of the day.

  • I also vote for MARKSMU’S Comment as Comment of the day.

  • 1 error in my original comment*Yeah, Houston’s forests in the north are what keeps the area FROM looking bad*, but to defend my point:
    ok? so where or when does this smart growth stop at, once we’ve reached our last suburban campuses that set up shop in Conroe, or perhaps Huntsville? Anything up for consideration for smart growth has limits,and it appears your concept of building in the suburbs so they can be closer to employee’s housing is anything but smart growth, it just sets up a world without carrying capacity, which is invalid, of course.
    Secondly, I hope I didn’t come across as a snob; I live in Pasa-freaking-dena! And I’d like to think that a snob wouldn’t live in my area, or would even fathom the idea. ( I live less than 10 blocks away from the plants)
    Thirdly, sprawl is sprawl; it could be LEED Gold/Platinum/whatever certified, it could have glorious, stunning architecture, but at the end of the day, it is sprawl, Old School, and your kidding yourself to argue that it is not.
    Hopefully my last point, (I haven’t scrolled up yet), yes, I’m happy as anyone when Houston attains an addition to its job pool, but when you consider the VAST resources and capital that ExxonMobil has, you know that they could really aid Houston’s progress to become a better city, which I am not going to be stubborn about but it is a subjective idea.
    Ok, I lied, but to finish it off; Adding more cars to the road is a given, I mean there are still going to be an increased amount of vehicles in the roads around the new campus, and in the central highways one wouldn’t feel the difference had ExxonMobil’s new campus been constructed centrally. And no, East Downtown is not the ONLY potentail areas in Central Houston that could’ve handled this new campus, there had to be dozens of sites just inside the loop.

  • I don’t see it as Exxon’s job to put its business anywhere other than where they feel it will work for them. While I would like to see more growth towards the center to continue to grow innner Houston, I won’t berate Exxon their choice. I’m sure it works for them and that’s really what matters. If they can’t afford having their office so far from the center 20 years from now, that’s their problem.

  • 3 VOTES for MARKSMU’S Comment as Comment of the day.

  • “…they chose to destroy the environment…” It is statements like this that give enrivonmentalism a bad name. Does “environment” only mean those areas with trees and squirrels? Who makes that determination? How is that so called “environment” being destroyed? I have news for you, no matter how much of the earth you pave over, you can NEVER destroy the earth. In the long run, the earth always wins and man always loses.

  • My vote goes to way to rationalize Mark.. Being from Spring I’d personally like to see some trees left there, and your sloganeering and thinly veiled rational expose your greed and lack of concern for anything short of of the almighty dollar. And all your sheep bleating your praises just show how shallow and shortsighted most of you are. I hate sprawl.

  • 1. At no point in the last fifty years has any snob regarded Detroit as a Utopia. Might want to swap San Fran out for that one (might also want to sub Seattle for LA and Portland for Chicago, NY is on point).

    2. The ExxonMobil development is right in between The Woodlands and Spring. Residents of these communities would cut 30-80 minutes off their round trip commute by working at the new facility versus going downtown. That is a very significant reduction in smog forming vehicle emissions. If a business doesn’t need to be in Houston’s central business district, then it is actually better to have them build closer to the work force than to cram more people on the highway for longer commutes. You can’t beat sprawl that is already here. The best you can do is mitigate it by creating smaller city centers in places like The Woodlands, Sugar Land and Clear Lake.

  • I would love to know where these dozens of 400 acre derelict brownfield sites just inside the loop are. Just because you don’t like the look of an industrial area doesn’t mean it isn’t actually filled with existing operating industrial companies.

  • Old school,

    Vis., point 2, what about the people who have chosen to live closer to their work place’s current location? Choosing a point far out on one side of Houston inconveniences everyone who doesn’t already live in Spring or the Woodlands, at least until the Grand Parkway is constructed.

  • Something tells me that Exxon spent quite a lot of time and money looking at various places to build, and their pros/cons. So you can agrue what would have been better for them but it’s their $$$ on the line. I’m sure factors such as talent recruitment were considered.
    While, to me, it seems logical to build a business near downtown, it also seems logical if you’re going to build something HUGE, build something in the ‘burbs where all the people that normally drive downtown happen to already live. Ironically that’s more ‘green’ as there are tons of people that live in BFE that will now have short trips to work vs. joining the herd that drives into town in the morning, and out of town at night.
    Lastly, this complex is HUGE… wanna guess what they paid PSF on the land out there vs. what they’d have paid inside the loop?

  • Houston would totally be better without any places where people work! I mean we don’t need those tax and wage payers associated with our community….

  • The majority of Exxon’s local employees already work at Greenspoint and live in the Spring / Woodlands area. Their commute will be significantly reduced, as well as working in a much improved neighborhood. The other large block of employees are downtown in the old Humble building, and I’m sure they would welcome the opportunity to work in a modern campus environment. This is major plus for the region.

    I drive by the new site daily and a significant portion of it is pasture-land. Not many trees will need to be cut or relocated.

  • Wow you all sound like you are from…Houston. Was it the part about the trees being cut down, or the “destoyed the environment line” that made you go all AM radio on the guy?

    There was no snobbery in the guys statement, or any rebuke of the capitalist system. Just the true fact that Exxon is building a big gaudy, 1987 style campus in the only naturally pretty part of the Houston area.

    And btw sprawl and chaotic zoning might make Houston unique, but it also makes it hideous and a punch line. You can have it both ways, see Dallas and Austin.

  • Seriously, the internet is your friend. Why would you make the claim that a “significant portion” of Exxon’s new property is “pasture-land?” You do realize that this very website has photos of the vast clear cutting that is underway, right?

    Ever heard of google? If you had, you might also realize that ExxonMobil employs thousands of folks in downtown proper, in Baytown, in a relatively new research building off of Buffalo Speedway, and in Brookhollow. I doubt that “the majority” of ExxonMobil’s current employees live in Spring and or The once-wooded Woodlands.

    This site is going to go downhill if it goes the way of and becomes full of folks who just make stuff up.

  • Mark: My point is about leading the camel to water. There will always be people in Houston who will take a job 45 miles from their house and spend two hours a day on the road rather than selling their KB home in Friendswood for a Weekly home in the Woodlands. But I hope that is the exception rather than the norm.

  • I agree that while, in theory, it would have been cool for XOM to have created an employment boom downtown with new skycrapers, the reality is that they can probably do everything they want in a campus, and offer more amenities and easier commutes for their employees, for less than what a downtown presence would have cost. And the reality is that if you are going to concentrate this many employees in one place, in a city with little mass transit options, a suburban campus probably makes the most sense.

    Hopefully, given the concentration of employees all working similar hours, there will be an abundance of van- and bus options. They really can make an impact on the traffic in the area this way. It also creates a concentration of workers for future Metro bus and light rail stops.

  • Someone might want to tell Steve Jobs that campus developments are out of style, considering that he has just presented a plan to Cupertino City Council to build a campus development to accomodate 18,000 employees there.

  • Well, it’s only cool if Exxon does it. Otherwise it’s just another “failed utopian idea,” I’m sure.

  • @Doofus, the research building on Buffalo Speedway was built in the 50’s, and is increasingly decrepit and difficult to maintain, according to people I know who work there. The new part of the building is the training center. The old building was built by Humble, and is in the shape of an H.

    Anyone who thinks that tract of land would have remained covered with trees forever is naive. The owners who sold it to ExxonMobil had owned the property since 1960. I would guess they were ready to monetize that asset. I also believe that the trees are probably second growth, as the original trees would have been cut down decades ago,

  • I was thinking the opposite anon, that it’s probably only cool if Apple does it. When Exxon does it its just another extension of their role as the great satan.

  • It’s cool when companies replace asphalt parking lots with 80% greenery, less cool when a company does the exact opposite. The only devil is in the details, no matter the company history or what it does. If it’s not that great then it’s just not that great.

  • 1960 is a shadow of it’s former self, I see more crime there in a week than I used to in a year. I’m from Spring/Klein and those trees clear cut are old growth. Used to ride my bike in the area many many moons ago.

  • Exxon employees commute from all corners of the map to get to work. Additionally they spend a crazy amount of time driving between locations to make meetings, presentations, etc. Those who are able will move up north. The rest will still commute but in a different direction. By the way, the research building is built in the orator style – designed by a Frank Lloyd Wright protege. Kinda cool.

  • Orator style was meant to be Prarie Style. Damn you auto correct.