Houston City Council on Wednesday unanimously approval, without discussion, a 10-year tax abatement to help Chevron build a 50-story tower downtown.
City officials have said the total value of the abatement will be 10 percent of the firm’s property taxes on the new tower in its first year, projected to be $2.7 to $2.95 million. The company also will get $12 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund, run by Gov. Rick Perry’s office. Program rules required city participation, though a Perry spokesman said the deal still may have gone through even with a veto in Houston.
Critics of the deal have noted Chevron has had plans for the tract at 1600 Louisiana for years. The firm, which reported a first-quarter profit of $6.2 billion, announced it would buy the tract — which is next door to the former Enron towers, which the firm also owns — five years ago, saying the purchase would allow “flexibility and options for the future.”
The building, Chevron has said, would allow it to consolidate workers from nearby leased space. It also would house 1,700 new workers the company plans to hire in Houston over the next eight years.
Councilman Dave Martin has been the only council member to publicly criticize the proposal, but he joined his colleagues in approving the item Wednesday. Chevron is a good corporate partner, he said, and the rules of the Texas Enterprise Fund put the city in a no-win position.
“It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If we vote against it, that sends a really unpleasant message to Chevron, and, quite honestly, a lot of other cities can use that against us,” he said. Still, he added, “When you look at this money, for a company that made $71 billion in profit in 2012, our money isn’t a hill of beans to them.”