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Commissioner talks about Motiva’s decision to halt rehab of Port Arthur buildings

Two years after Motiva Enterprises announced the purchase and rehabilitation of two historic Port Arthur buildings, renovations have seemed to cease.

It’s a move one local official calls concerning, but hopes is only temporary.

“I have had conversations with them,” said Jefferson County Commissioner Michael Sinegal. “They said they’re going to put it on hiatus for now but they are still committed to the development of downtown. They didn’t give me a timeline because of the economic downturn right now.”

In June 2020, Motiva, which was renovating the Adams Building and Federal Building on Austin Avenue, confirmed to The News it would be cutting approximately 200 jobs due to the impact from COVID-19. At the time, the refinery employed nearly 3,000 U.S. workers.

“I am concerned, but regardless of what happens, it’s on their end as far as the revitalizations,” Sinegal said. “They’ve done a lot to those buildings. They look better just the way they are now.”

The commissioner said the refinery’s 2019 announcement to purchase the building was a “dream come true.”

“That was the best thing I’d heard in my 20-25 years of being in politics in Jefferson County and Port Arthur,” he added.

In a written statement Friday, Motiva acknowledged that revitalization had been slowed, but said it was committed to continuing the progress:

“We are currently awaiting historical designations from both the state and federal government. Although the renovation timeline has been slowed, downtown Port Arthur is still the future home of a Motiva campus that will provide much needed office space for employees and contractors who are not directly involved in site-specific maintenance or operations.”

Motiva announced in 2017 that it would be investing $12 billion in the expansion of the Port Arthur refinery, creating as many as 12,000 jobs.

Work on the two buildings was expected to be finalized by late 2021 or early 2022. City and county officials originally hoped the expansion and move into downtown buildings, which was said to provide workspace for up to 500 people, would spur additional economic development in the area.