MONIQUE BATSON — Motiva, Port Arthur leaders update downtown renovation projects

Published 12:26 am Friday, March 24, 2023

In 2017, Motiva Enterprises 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.

And in 2019, an unveiling and downtown celebration brought a breath of hope and possibility to the City of Port Arthur.

But in 2021, residents and city officials noticed that construction had come to a halt. And since then, the question has been: Will the plan come to fruition?

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In May 2022, representatives from Motiva reiterated to city councilmembers their intent to continue the downtown revitalization project. They had been faced by a multitude of issues since the unveiling — COVID, requirements from the Texas Historical Commission to renovate the Adams Building and Federal Building, and ongoing inflation that has drastically increased the cost of building materials.

This week I spoke with several city leaders as well as a Motiva representative to gather updates on the project, as well as other related city projects.

The Motiva Media Desk on Tuesday sent a statement saying, “We do not have a timeline on construction as of yet. We will share those details with city leaders as soon as we have finished the needed assessments and the work scope has been finished.”

And City Manager Ron Burton said representatives have been in constant contact with the city.

“We still have high hopes,” Burton said. “We, the mayor and I, met with a chief executive at Motiva in January and they said the same thing — they’re working on it and don’t want to give a timeline but will soon.”

And, Burton said, he understands the desire not to give a timeline. Each time one has been given before, something unpredictable like the pandemic delayed projects for an undeterminable amount of time.

Councilman Thomas Kinlaw III, who is chairman of the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ), said work continues to make progress on downtown development, in particular the Motiva offices.

“To have those 500 people downtown would be a great help to Port Arthur,” Kinlaw said.

When Motiva bought the Adams and Federal buildings, the company also purchased the building, which currently serves as the Port Arthur Health Department. Two months later, city officials approved spending $4.5 million to renovate the former Health and Human Services building on 9th Avenue to serve as the new health department.

Under the agreement with Motiva, the health department would be able to remain in its current location. However, by July 1, 2022, the city would begin paying $12,000 a month to Motiva to lease the building.

That, Burton said, has not happened. The city has not been required to make any payments to Motiva in order to remain in the health department.

The new facility, which has approximately 41,00 square-feet inside and 62,000 square-feet of parking space, is on track to open by the end of 2023, Burton said.

The new building will have separate suites for vaccinations, a laboratory, a pharmacy, WIC, adult services, immunization, tuberculosis testing, public health, vital statistics, Nurse Family Partnership, physical fitness, public health preparedness and office spaces.

The Port Arthur Health Department also services the residents of Nederland, Port Neches and Groves.

Monique Batson is Port Arthur Newsmedia editor. She can be reached at