EP Water

El Paso Water’s headquarters at 1154 Hawkins. The utility says it has outgrown the building and is looking for a new headquarters in Downtown.

El Paso Water is looking for a new home Downtown, a move that would bring 150 employees to the city center.

The water utility has worked out of its current Eastside headquarters at 1154 Hawkins since 1992, and space is getting tight, said John Balliew, El Paso Water president and CEO.

So, on Sept. 5, the utility published a request for information seeking responses from Downtown property owners who might be interested in selling. They need 50,000 to 60,000 square feet of office space and parking for 300 cars.

Responses are due by Friday.

Hunt Companies’ recent announcement of plans for a new, 14-story, $70 million Downtown office tower at 601 N. Mesa could open up possibilities if El Paso Water can wait that long.

WestStar Bank intends to vacate its current building at 500 N. Mesa and move into the new 200,000-square-foot high rise it is developing with Hunt. It’s scheduled to open in late 2019 or early 2020.

“We’ve got time,” Balliew said. “We have some mechanical and structural issues in this building, but the most pressing thing is this building is now completely full. We can delay and shuffle people for a while and are not in immediate need of anything. But we wanted to just look and see what’s available.”

He said it’s unlikely that the utility could make a move before 2019.

Some years ago, as part of the effort to revitalize Downtown El Paso, city officials and leaders were encouraging companies and local governments to move Downtown.

The utility’s announcement says the Public Service Board, which oversees the water utility, “is interested in exploring opportunities to relocate the offices to Downtown El Paso to help advance urban revitalization efforts.”

But Balliew said there’s no pressure being exerted on the utility to move Downtown.

“Nobody from City Hall is talking about us moving down there at this time,” he said. “But you have to consider that we have the same customers.

“You have to go get a building permit and get your water and electricity turned on. You can do all that Downtown – except for us. You have to come over here to Hawkins for those requests.”

El Paso Water has 847 employees, 150 of whom work in the Hawkins headquarters building. The rest work at the utility’s customer service center on Boeing, at half a dozen treatment plants, a vehicle and equipment maintenance facility and the stormwater utility’s facilities.

If nothing suitable is available Downtown, Balliew said, they’ll look at renovating and expanding the Hawkins building.

Asked about the rate of employee growth, he said it has kept pace with the increase in customers.

“If you look at our customer growth and the number of employees, we have four per 1,000 customers. It’s relatively steady for many, many years.”

Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at dcrowder@elpasoinc.com or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 122 and (915) 630-6622.