After years of planning, City of Midland rejects a $55 million initiative to revitalize Hogan Park
The Permian Basin Quality of Place Conservancy, a local nonprofit, had been pursuing an agreement with the city to renovate and manage the park. On Tuesday though, the Midland City Council rejected the proposed lease and development agreement — seemingly ending the years-long project.
What kind of place will Midland be in the future?
That is a question residents struggled with on Tuesday as the Midland City Council voted 4 - 2 to reject a $55 million proposal to revitalize the city’s 128-acre Hogan Park and lease it to the Permian Basin Quality of Place Conservancy for the next 25 years.
Appearing on a local morning radio show, Midland Mayor Lori Blong shared her disappointment about the council’s decision.
“I definitely feel like we’ve lost out on something,” she said. “I’m sad this morning, but we have an answer now.”
Blong, who had been an advocate for the project and had previously served on the Conservancy’s board of directors, was one of two council members who voted in favor of the agreement with the local non-profit.
The proposal had been in the works since 2019 and would have built new sports facilities across the park while also expanding trails. On its website, the Conservancy described the Hogan Park project as a “historic turning point in the quality of life in Midland” and that the park would become “the epicenter of recreational life” in the city.
After the council’s vote though, Blong doesn’t see a path forward to work with the nonprofit to improve the park.
“I think this comes a little bit back to whether or not we want government control,” she said. “Do we want more governmental control or do we want more private entities to manage things and that’s a philosophical question.”
Midland leaders and residents have brought up questions about this project for months concerning transparency, the plan’s true cost and why the city would give control of the park over to a private entity.
Midland resident Lynn Rogers told the council on Tuesday, “I think to take the public voice, and my voice and my power, and give it away to a small elite unelected group of citizens of our community is not ok with me and I don’t think it’s ok with a lot of citizens in Midland.”
The Conservancy would have established a board to oversee Hogan Park — with the city appointing three of the seven members. The agreement would have allowed for the nonprofit to control the park for at least 25 years with the option to extend its lease for 40 more.
This concerned council members like Dan Corrales, who has repeatedly brought up questions around how much money this project will end up costing Midlanders.
“Your children, my grandchildren will still be paying property taxes for this 65 years from now,” Corrales said. “They can’t tell you that it's not going to raise taxes.”
Even though the bulk of the $55 million price tag to renovate Hogan Park would have been shouldered by the Conservancy, which was raising funds from philanthropic foundations and corporations, the City of Midland would have been responsible for approximately $2 million in annual maintenance fees.
That figure is nearly double what the city is currently paying for Hogan Park’s upkeep. And rather than agree to a deal that could cost the city tens of millions of dollars in the future, Corrales believes the city can use money from local oil and gas production to take on large scale projects like revitalizing parks.
“Because of the recent royalties that the city has received from being able to get to oil and gas within the city limits we have a substantial amount of money going into [the parks] fund,” said Corrales.
According to city staff, in fiscal year 2022 alone, Midland raised approximately $21.7 million from oil and gas royalties, which is currently allocated for Midland parks. In the end, Corrales said he couldn’t vote to give up control of the park.
“This city is not for sale,” he said before voting against the proposal.
Officials with the Conservancy, however, argued that the project would have taken a burden off of Midlanders while providing them with a space to enjoy the outdoors.
“The beauty of this in my mind was you’re leveraging private dollars with public dollars,” Jeff Beard, the Conservancy’s board president, told Marfa Public Radio following the meeting.
Beard said he got involved with the Hogan Park project to help improve the community he’s called home for four decades.
“I’ve got three kids that live here, that have grown up here,” he said. “I want their kids to be able to have somewhere great to come back to and it not to be the way it’s been talked about in the past as a stopping off spot.”
Since the council voted down the nonprofit's proposal, Beard said the Conservancy will regroup and find new things to work on.
“We’re not going to go away,” he said. “We have a passion for this area. I think it is the end of this project…but there’s certainly more things to be addressed.”
Beard said he’s disappointed with the council’s decision and hopes it doesn’t set back efforts in Midland to improve residents' quality of life. He said there are a lot of projects on the horizon to be excited about, but there’s still a lot of work to be done too.