Midland-based developer Energy Related Properties (ERP) is betting big on the influx of businesses and workers that it believes will accompany the Cline Shale oil bonanza. The company recently hired architectural firm Edmonds International, which has offices in Vancouver, New York, and Mexico City, to design a 58-story, mixed-use tower sited on two blocks in the center of the West Texas city’s downtown. Known as the Energy Tower at City Center, the $450 million project contains everything a body might need for working, sleeping, eating, shopping, and playing under one very tall roof.
ERP, a vertically integrated real estate fund that currently owns one million square feet of office space in Midland, initiated the project based on demands it was hearing from its clients for more office space and better facilities. “Time stopped in Midland in 1985. When you look around, all of the major infrastructure here is from that time,” said ERP president William Meyer, speaking of the last oil bust that brought the economy of the region to its knees. “The building stock is not up to what big international companies need today. Plus, with the tremendous economic activity going on now, it’s very difficult to get into a restaurant, you can’t find a hotel room, there’s no place for corporate events.”
Energy Tower will attempt to fill those needs and to revitalize a downtown that is presently underserved. The 869-foot-tall tower is rhomboid in plan with a perimeter diagrid structural steel framing system and a transparent glass facade. A solar shading system protects the western and southern faces of the otherwise clear envelope from the powerful West Texas sun. From the bottom up, the development includes 53,500 square feet of retail in a sunken level that is open to the sky, a 198-room hotel, 230,460 square feet of residences, 564,000 square feet of office space, and a sky lounge and spa capping things off. Considering that the building would be twice as tall as Midland’s next-tallest structure, the first floor of offices, the 28th, would feature 360-degree views that easily clear the surrounding rooftops. By packing most of the program into one tall tower, the architects were able to free up 80 percent of the site for a public plaza with a reflecting pool and an accessible green roof that tops a ballroom and convention center. The project also includes five levels of underground parking with 2,920 spaces.
ERP first unveiled the project in March and since that time has been working to secure tenants and to assure the local community that the tower is a good idea. Many locals at first objected to the project because its construction will entail the demolition of the Old Midland County Courthouse, a concrete structure that was originally completed in 1929. Others worried that its size would make it appear like a “giant middle finger” on the city’s skyline, and some compared it to the Tower of Babel. More recently, objections have centered around the fact that ERP has asked the city for a 10-year property tax abatement in order to fund the construction of the subterranean parking garage. However, Austin-based AngelouEconomics released a study in August stating that Energy Tower is capable of producing a total economic impact of $2.7 billion and a total tax revenue output of $125 million in a 10-year period, far exceeding the $75 million ERP believes it would need from the city.
Meanwhile, Meyer continues to court tenants for the project, and is asking for 10 to 15 year commitments. “It’s progressing really well,” he said. “We’re seeing a strong demand for the tower. We’re currently in talks with some hotels. Some have heard of Midland, some haven’t.”