MIDLAND, TX (KWES) - The Building of the Southwest sits right in the heart of downtown Midland. After at least 20 years, the city is now taking a step further to bring this space back to life.
"It's become an eyesore. There's always been talk about the facade and appearance of those buildings, what's going to happen to them, can we sell them, what can we do to improve them, it's been an ongoing project for this council for the last several years," said Mayor Jerry Morales.
Built in 1965, the Building of the Southwest was originally an office building which eventually went out of operation.
"Since we've been downtown, all 3 of these buildings have been vacant," said George McAlpine with Sahara Operating Company, who offices right across the street. McAlpine moved to Midland in 1982, around a time when the 3 downtown buildings were occupied.
"We had a decade of historically low oil prices," said McAlpine. "Companies weren't hiring. They were laying off people. When you lay off people, you don't use much office space. Once the occupancy rate dropped below a certain point, they shut the building down."
McAlpine hopes the space could be used to help visitors driving in the downtown area.
"Midland can always use more parking," he said. "Parking is an issue downtown."
The Midland City Council approved for the building to start the abatement phase on Tuesday. It'll go through 3 phases, first is to clean the asbestos, second is to hire engineers, third, is the possibility of demolition or even redevelopment. But the city council hasn't made a solid decision yet on what they plan to do for the final phase.
"It's important to taxpayers because that downtown generates significant tax revenue. That takes the burden off of homeowners. Anything we can do to improve downtown is a win for taxpayers," said Midland City Councilman John B. Love III. "We want to do what's right when it comes to being good stewards to taxpayers property and their money."
After 6 months of cleaning the asbestos, the city will make more discussions before seeing what the future of downtown Midland will hold. Regardless on whether the city council decides to demolish the building, officials said they will still have to clean the building from asbestos anyway. There's no set date on when they'll start the cleaning.