Real estate leaders and developers eye start of proposal process for convention center project

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Wednesday, June 1, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

Leaders of Austin’s real estate and development community learned a lot about the planned expansion of the Austin Convention Center during a roundtable last week, but they had to wait to find out when the contracts of design, engineering and subcontracting of the installation will be published for proposals and invitations to tender.

The May Members’ Breakfast discussion for Urban Land Institute Austin focused entirely on the $1.2 billion expansion that will see the current facility torn down and rebuilt with showroom space and loading docks contained underground and meeting and banquet space located above street level, with a mix-use private layout component located at its southern end.

When a question from the audience was asked specifically when architecture, engineering, and construction professionals would have the opportunity to compete for contracts, Austin Convention Center Department Manager Trisha Tatro, only proposed that the RFP for design and engineering work be issued “in the future here shortly,” suggesting the process is still moving at an inaccurate pace. Tatro said the RFP for construction of the project would quickly follow this RFQ and that the 12-18 month design process is expected to begin early next year Depending on how prospective contractors decide to phase the project, dismantling and rebuilding is expected to take four to seven years old.

Upon completion, the facility will have 709,000 square feet of rental space for conventions, exhibits and other business events, far more than the current 376,000 that stakeholders say is too small for Austin to be. competitive for major events.

Tom Noonan, president and CEO of Visit Austin, said the convention center is the 48th largest in the United States, putting it well behind facilities in smaller, less economically active cities. And with expansions planned for centers in Dallas, Houston and Arlington — as well as out-of-state metros such as New Orleans — he said Austin’s hospitality industry is trying to do everything it can. needed to bring more business bookings to the area to use the rooms on slow weekday nights.

“How many industries do you know that say ‘Tax me more,'” Noonan said, explaining that hotels will create a public improvement district with a 1% tax levy on their revenue to generate more than $10 million. dollars a year to promote Austin and pursue more convention business.

“They know we need a bigger building downtown to fill downtown and get that compression in the city, so not only is the hospitality industry doing better, but other downtown business segments too,” he continued. “Part of my job is to raise the amount of the hotel tax, and when that happens, the arts community benefits and the heritage (tourism) industry is better positioned to fund the things Austinians love.”

Panelist Sheryl Sculley, former San Antonio City Manager and City Leader of Phoenix and Kalamazoo, Michigan, said the public-private partnership component of the new convention center will need to be managed carefully to get the most out of the Real estate and other major public works projects are happening nearby at the same time.

“It would take a thorough market analysis to determine what the needs are and where there are market opportunities for expansion,” she said. “If I can be brutally honest, I haven’t come across a city that was great at retail, so there would have to be experts there who would help the city with any kind of private sector development associated with the project.”

While the original plan called for a westward expansion over three and a half blocks of private property, that approach had to be scrapped last spring when land purchase negotiations failed to produce financially acceptable deals.

Responding to a question about the lifespan of the rebuilt facility, Tatro said the emphasis on vertical growth will allow for more renovations to be carried out if needed over the building’s expected 30-year lifespan.

“When designing the facility, we ensure that there will be opportunities for vertical expansion in the future. The only big drawback of the current convention center is that it is an exhibition space without columns,” he said. “At first it was important for the customers, but since there are no columns, there is no way to extend this center vertically. Structurally, the installation could not manage this, which partly explains why we are in the situation we are facing today.

Photo by Non-dropframe at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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