Will Midland Become the Dubai of Texas?

An online petition opposing a proposed 53-story, mixed-use "Energy Tower" began circulating in March. "Is this what we want to present to the world, that we're the Dubai of Texas?", asked the organizer. However, Midland is not new to tall buildings.

Russell Gold begins his article on the proposal for the 869 ft. tower that includes "a mix of office space, apartments, a five-star hotel, restaurants, stores and a public plaza" by going back to 1927 when the "12-story office building called the Petroleum Tower" was built in this west Texas city of 110,000. However, in the plains of west Texas, the tendency is clearly to spread out, not build up. [See graphic, "The Town That Oil Built" in article for large building construction in Midland.]

Located in the Permian Basin, the city is experiencing a new oil boom due to hydraulic fracking of shale, just as it did with conventional oil drilling when the Petroleum Tower was built. It is one of the "energy boomtowns" described here by urban planning professor and prolific writer, Joel Kotkin, with the likes of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

The tower, proposed by Energy Related Properties, hopes to take advantage of rising rents and "a vacancy rate under 2%, compared with 21% in Dallas."

As for those who fear the Midland may replicate Dubai, home to the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, and where four of the six tallest buildings were completed in 2012, they may take some solace in knowing it may not be as tall as they fear:

Energy Related Properties says it won't break ground on the tower unless it has firm leasing commitments. If demand is less than it expects, it could dial back to a 40-story building.

Then again, they may "increase the tower to 70 stories if there is appetite."

Correspondent's note: Full access to article may be limited after April 17 to those without subscription to The Wall Street Journal.

Full Story: Energy Boom Sparks Building Spree in West Texas


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