Dallas is a leading contender for a major expansion by ride-hailing giant Uber that would transform the city into one of the tech company’s largest hubs outside San Francisco, company officials confirmed Thursday.
Uber has zeroed in on a site in Deep Ellum for an office that would employ several thousand workers, from engineers and finance executives to salespeople. Jobs would span Uber’s businesses, from delivering food to developing a new urban air taxi service.
Uber plans to make a decision by late August, after narrowing its list to fewer than a handful of cities, said spokesman Travis Considine. He declined to identify the other cities being considered.
If Uber chooses Dallas, it’s planning to move into the Epic, an 8-acre development on the eastern edge of downtown Dallas in Deep Ellum, Considine said. It is at Elm Street and Good-Latimer Expressway.
The San Francisco-based company’s expansion would be a big win for the city of Dallas. The city has seen major development after major development — including Fortune 500 headquarters — pick the suburbs over the city. Toyota North America opened its new headquarters in Plano. Pharmaceutical giant McKesson’s headquarters moved from San Francisco to Irving. And Texas Instruments recently announced it’s going to build a $3.1 billion manufacturing facility in Richardson.
Dallas was reported to be a frontrunner for Amazon’s second headquarters, but it ultimately missed out. Amazon split the project, dubbed HQ2, between New York City and Washington D.C. area. Amazon later backed out of the New York expansion plans.
With Uber, Dallas gets a chance to prove it not only can lure big fish — but also reel them in.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Uber’s interest in Dallas “is consistent with how our marketplace and how our city is being viewed by corporations across America.”
“They see us as a place where they can do business, have a great place to work and have a great deal of tech talent,” he said. But he added, “It’s not over. We have to keep doing everything we have to do to convince them to come.”
Uber declined to say if it’s seeking tax incentives from the state, county or city. The city approved a $2 million tax break over the next decade for developers of the Epic project. Dallas County approved a 10-year tax abatement, worth an estimated $550,000 in tax savings, for developers to convert a historic building into a hotel.
With Uber, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he sees tax incentives as “the last steps in the marathon.”
“It’s a great project, and it’s the sort of jobs that we need to draw to Dallas to really increase our average wage and provide good opportunities for people in our urban core,” he said. “We are excited to be a part of hopefully a successful effort to bring them here and if they come here, I’ll make sure to increase my use of Uber and encourage everyone else to.”
The property that Uber is eyeing is a joint effort between landowner Westdale Real Estate Investment and Management and office developer KDC. It includes an office tower, apartment high-rise and restored historic building that’s becoming a luxury hotel. It has room for two more towers.
Developer KDC, which built the office tower at the Epic, would not comment.
Real estate brokers and developers tracking the deal said Uber has told them it will need the office space starting before the end of the year. The just-finished Epic office building would be able to immediately accommodate a first phase of Uber’s employment.
Dallas is a major market for Uber. It was the first Texas city to get Uber’s ride-hailing service in September 2012. Since then, Uber has added food delivery service, Uber Eats, and chosen Dallas as the testing ground for its urban air taxi service, Uber Air, that it plans to demonstrate in 2020. In March, Uber signed an up to $1.5 million contract with Dallas Area Rapid Transit to provide free and discounted rides to help connect people to nearby light-rail and bus stations. It also has bike-share and scooter-share in Dallas through Jump, which it owns.
Uber’s plans for a large new corporate hub come soon after its debut on the New York Stock Exchange in early May. Its rival, Lyft, began trading on the public markets in late March.
Uber is building a new 1.1 million-square-foot headquarters in San Francisco that’s expected to open in 2020, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Uber is planning to expand in other cities. The company’s second largest hub now is Chicago, which has over 1,000 employees. Uber is in discussions about leasing a 450,000-square-foot office in a building being redeveloped along the Chicago River, according to The Chicago Tribune. If it follows through on the deal, the lease would be one of the largest ever signed by a technology company in Chicago, the Tribune said.
It’s reportedly looking for more office space in New York City, too. It is visiting sites with between 250,000 and 350,000 square feet around Bryant Park in Midtown and 3 World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, according to a late April report by Crain’s New York.
Uber also has a large presence in Washington, D.C., and its Advanced Technologies Group — which focuses on autonomous vehicle development — is based in Pittsburgh, near Carnegie Mellon University.
But Dallas is competing for an office that would be equal in headcount — or potentially bigger — than Chicago, according to Uber’s Considine.
Rawlings said Dallas is attracting major tech companies’ attention because their employees want quality of life amenities, such as new parks that are underway in downtown.
“Whether you want to eat at a Thai restaurant or play with your dog in the park or go to a good show, every year we get better and better at this stuff,” he said.
Uber has about 140 employees in Texas. Its largest office in the state is in downtown Austin, where it has about 90 employees who work in sales, recruiting, operations, marketing and public policy. It has about a dozen employees in a small office in Dallas’ West End. The company’s careers site lists eight jobs ranging from finance and accounting to software engineers and a global employment tax manager.
The company has nearly 11,000 employees in the U.S., according to a registration statement it filed with the SEC ahead of its initial public offering. In the April filing, the company said it planned to increase its headcount significantly to keep up with expansion across the globe.