- The Houston suburb of Sugar Land, Texas, has started a search for a private partner to help develop, build and operate a new hotel and convention center. The city issued a request for statements of interest on Jan. 18.
- The project will include a full-service hotel with 350 rooms, a convention center of up to 50,000 square feet, a 700-space parking structure and possibly a community cultural arts venue or some other undetermined amenity.
- The hotel and convention center will be located on 22 acres of city-owned property, but the selected private partner will be expected to provide financial backing in addition to construction and operational services. The city’s support will be limited to funding earmarked for tourism and economic development and capital investments paid for by revenue generated from the project, with no use of general property tax money.
Cities all over the U.S. are expanding and upgrading their convention center facilities in order to draw more trade shows and conferences, the type of events that provide an economic benefit not only for the operators of the venues but for restaurants, bars, retailers and other businesses in the local area.
Even Las Vegas, which is already a top convention destination, is overhauling and adding to its capabilities with a $935 million expansion of the Las Vegas Convention center. In September, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority approved a $792 million guaranteed maximum price contract (GMP) with the construction manager at risk, a joint venture between Turner Construction and Martin-Harris Construction, and the latest estimates have the convention center's new space set for use sometime in 2020.
The aggressive schedule for completion is due in part to the authority’s intention to run construction crews at night. As part of a rezoning request, Clark County commissioners agreed to allow overnight construction hours on certain days of the week between Sept. 2018 and Jan. 2021.
But sometimes convention center plans have a less clear path than the one in Las Vegas. In Jacksonville, Florida, Jacobs Engineering Group last year got the nod from city officials to move forward with a downtown convention center and hotel project worth more than $1 billion, but the Downtown Investment Authority killed the project after the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars proposed building a convention center complex on one of its properties. It is still up in the air as to what the city will do with the site. Demolition of the existing structures had already started when the project was axed.