KCBD INVESTIGATES: How much rent is costing Lubbock taxpayers

City continues to lease several properties as SPC uses millions of taxpayer dollars to buy former city hall
Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 8:08 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The city bought Citizens Tower with an eye toward consolidating departments and saving money on lease payments, so our Investigates team checked in with city leaders to see how much they’re still paying, one year later.

Citizens Tower has allowed some city departments to consolidate operations since it became operational last year. For example: 1611 10th street formerly housed the parks and information technology departments. Records show the annual cost of rent was $198,444 at $16,537 per month for the 23,000+ sq. ft. property.

“Fortunately, we were able to work with the landlord and we were able to vacate that property and terminate that lease early in late 2019,” Councilman Steve Massengale said. “So there was no overlap after you moved into Citizens Tower.”

Massengale is the chair of the council facilities committee. Before him, Councilman Jim Gerlt held that position.

Gerlt had high expectations for how much the city could save when KCBD spoke to him in 2015.

“We’re going to be able to consolidate these different departments in the city into one building. That will eventually save $800,000 in lease payments,” Gerlt said.

But the cost of rent has increased since then, and only a few locations have been let go.

According to city documents obtained by KCBD, the annual cost of rental properties in 2021 is $467,763, down from $696,591 in 2014. The total savings so far? Only about $228,000.

Meanwhile, the former city hall downtown has changed hands. The city sold it to South Plains College for $2 million.

Massengale says that price didn’t come without debate.

“I’m certain that the value of that building is worth more than $2 million,” he said. “We felt considering the project of what South Plains College was going to do with that building, that $2 million was the right price to partner with the. So that they could do what they’re trying to accomplish in downtown Lubbock.”

The downtown building sold for $2 million and will be turned into an academic center for South...
The downtown building sold for $2 million and will be turned into an academic center for South Plains college.(KCBD)

The planned academic center for SPC is estimated to cost a total of $16 million.

“When we started visiting with them, we realized that Hockley County residents would not want to be spending their property tax dollars over in Lubbock County,” President and CEO of the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance (LEDA) John Osbourne said.

The nonprofit gave $10 million, combined with the CH Foundation’s donation of $6 million.

Though separate from the city, LEDA is funded by sales tax.

The $2 million price tag, funded in part by that sales tax, was then used to pay for the new parking garage at Citizens Tower.

“What we saw was that we needed to try to raise funds for the entire project, and the acquisition of the building is part of the total cost to make the project take place,” Osbourne said.

While that prime real estate was given away with taxpayer money, the city is still leasing four locations across town.

1. Godeke library at 5034 Frankford: $14,561 per month ($174, 741 annual)

Located at 5034 Frankford in Lubbock
Located at 5034 Frankford in Lubbock(KCBD)

2. Facilities management at 401 34th: $8,464 per month ($101,572 annual)

Located at 401 34th street in Lubbock
Located at 401 34th street in Lubbock(KCBD)

3. The radio shop at 530 36th: $6,482 per month ($77, 787 annual)

Located at 530 36th street in Lubbock,
Located at 530 36th street in Lubbock,(KCBD)

4. Community development & health department at 1708 Crickets: $9,486 per month ($113, 662 annual)

Located at 1708 Crickets in Lubbock.
Located at 1708 Crickets in Lubbock.(KCBD)

“We never studied whether or not those departments would fit in that building,” Massengale said. “I’m not sure how you would plug them into that facility. I don’t know that that even makes sense.”

Each of these properties has been in use since at least 2014.

“I would love to decrease the amount of rent we spend right now... As those leases come up, we will always look for opportunities to not pay rent on leased facilities,” Massengale said.

The city has renewed Goedeke Library’s lease until 2023, and though the health department is moving from 1708 Crickets to a city-owned building on 50th Street, that lease isn’t set to expire until next year.

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