ExxonMobil Moves Forward with New Digs

ExxonMobil Corp. has chosen Gilbane/Harvey-Houston, a team involving construction and real estate development firm Gilbane Building Co. and general contractor Harvey General Contractors, to build its Houston office campus on a 385-acre site.

June 16, 2011
By Barbra Murray, Contributing Editor

Taking a big step forward on a major real estate endeavor, ExxonMobil Corp. has just chosen Gilbane/Harvey-Houston, a team involving construction and real estate development firm Gilbane Building Co. and general contractor Harvey, to build its new Houston office campus on a 385-acre site. The international oil and gas giant may talk about the price of oil, but mum’s the word when it comes to the size of the planned multi-structure complex and its development cost.

ExxonMobil’s new campus will occupy land it already owns on the boundary of Springwoods Village, a new mixed-use master-planned community being developed by CDC Houston Inc., 30 miles north of downtown Houston. The property will feature several low-rise structures containing office space, laboratory space, a conference center and a training facility. The company will also offer special accommodations for employees in the form of a child care facility and a wellness center. Additionally, ExxonMobil is putting a big emphasis on green. “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,” Bryan Milton, president of ExxonMobil Global Services Co., noted.

Pickard Chilton is behind the master plan and design for the state-of-the-art compound and Gensler is onboard as architect of record. The new locale will allow ExxonMobil to bring workers from its Houston Upstream office and ExxonMobil Chemical Co. under one roof, so to speak. Employees in support services will also make the move. The first group of staff members will make their way to their new home in early 2014, with the remaining employees relocating in phases into 2015.

And when the company makes the big move, it will leave behind a sizable chunk of office space. Such is life when it comes to build-to-suit developments. Metropolitan Houston can ill-afford the excess square footage—not right now, at least. The current vacancy rate for Class A space is 13.9 percent, according to a first quarter report by commercial real estate services firm Grubb & Ellis Co. However, the market is on the upswing. The first three months of 2011 marked the fourth consecutive quarter to register quarterly growth.

The company’s decision to construct a new Houston campus was based on a study of its national office needs, so the relocation of other ExxonMobil facilities to the Houston site may be on the horizon. But the company hasn’t foregone expansion. The oil and gas concern recently debuted its 220,000 square-foot Shanghai Technology Center in China, home to 300 employees. “Our investment in this new facility demonstrates the strategic importance of technology and its critical role in supporting the long-term value of our chemical business,” David Rosenthal, vice president of investor relations and secretary at ExxonMobil, said during the company’s first quarter 2011 earnings conference call in April. “Today, the Chinese petrochemical market is the largest in the world.”