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Motiva answers questions about stalled Port Arthur downtown renovations

More than four months after construction stopped on two historic Port Arthur buildings, a representative of Motiva Enterprises appeared before council members this week to address concerns that the project would not continue.

“There have been a lot of questions to me about the work that’s going on in the buildings down there,” Councilman Kenneth Marks said. “We know that the pandemic caused a significant slowdown in what was going on… The concern that I have along with several other citizens is, (does) the project still have a green light?”

In 2017, Motiva announced it purchased the Adams Building and Federal Building on Austin Avenue to renovate into office buildings for more than 500 contractors and personnel. In addition, the company said it would be investing in a $12 billion expansion of the Port Arthur refinery to bring in as many as 12,000 jobs.

The estimated completion date was the first quarter of 2022, but in April it was said that timeline could now extend to early 2023.

Claire Jackson, Motiva community affairs manager, addresses the Port Arthur City Council Tuesday evening.

“Our industry has seen an extreme volatile market over the past year and it’s really been unprecedented financial times for the refiners in our area and across the globe,” Claire Jackson, Motiva community affairs manager, told council members. “We have taken some economic steps to weather the storm and focus on conserving cash in this tough environment.”

A June report by Moody’s Investors Service, a credit rating company, supports those claims, stating the company in 2021 has reduced a “large” amount of debt to support metric recovery.

Council members took implications from COVID-19 into consideration with each address.

“We know that the pandemic caused a significant slowdown in what was going on and it impacted the petrochemical industry significantly as far as cash revenues are concerned,” Marks said. He later asked, “Are we still going to be able to look forward to having 500 plus people housed in offices downtown so that we can continue our downtown revitalization along with the work that Motiva is doing?”

Councilman Thomas Kinlaw had similar remarks, saying, “We’re getting calls that the project has actually stopped. I understand it’s the hope to continue this project. We’re waiting to develop downtown based on some of the promises that were made in the past to this council and the City of Port Arthur.”

Jackson said the company was still awaiting federal and state historical certifications needed for the renovations.

“The Port Arthur downtown projects are still a much-needed home for Motiva and its office space for employers and contractors that are not necessary to the day-to-day maintenance and operations of the facility,” she said. “Maintenance crews will be working on site to keep the grounds tidy and minor work identified as we monitor those buildings. The relations with the Port Arthur community is very important to us and we plan to be a part of Port Arthur for decades to come.”