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Motiva provides terrific boost to downtown PA

May 20, 2019 GMT

We are so used to bad news these days that sometimes we overlook the truly wonderful things that are happening in our own backyard. Exhibit A would be the stupendous change unfolding in downtown Port Arthur, announced a while back and officially kicked off last week.

Motiva Enterprises is buying and renovating at least two stately old buildings in the downtown, renovating them and filling them with 500 office workers. The project will cost at least $150 million. Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman said it is one of the largest investments in an opportunity zone in the nation.

A project of this magnitude might occur only a few times in the entire country each year. One of them is happening right here in Port Arthur, and it’s worth bragging about.


This investment breathes new life into a moribund downtown. It saves historic buildings instead of demolishing them. It lifts up everything that shares real estate with the downtown, from Lamar State College to the Port of Port Arthur.

Best of all are the spinoff developments that are already taking shape. Other companies and entrepreneurs are starting to make plans to provide goods and services to all those office workers. Everyone else who lives nearby or works downtown can of course take advantage of these new options. All of this creates more jobs and sales taxes in a city that can use them to repair its infrastructure and keep the momentum going.

Credit must go to Motiva, which could have built new glass and steel boxes somewhere for these employees, or even continued to house them in 220 trailers at its refinery. Instead, company officials chose to repurpose old structures in a region where too many of them are torn down.

This doesn’t mean that Port Arthur ISD officials should relent in their efforts to get the Motiva refinery assessed fairly for property taxes so they have enough tax dollars to educate the city’s children. If anything, a company that is civic-minded enough to make a move like this could re-evaluate its position on the refinery valuation and reach out for a fair compromise.

But that’s for later, and right now Port Arthur residents can be forgiven for sitting back and soaking in all the positives from this project. It’s a huge boost for their town. And since Port Arthur is the second-largest city in the region, this helps all of Southeast Texas in psychological and practical terms. The buildings should be ready in 2021; we can hardly wait.