- Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) officials have agreed to pay for $82.8 million in public benefits as part of its $1.6 billion Seattle expansion, according to The Seattle Times.
- That agreement, reached with a group of organizations dubbed the Community Package Coalition, will provide $29 million in affordable housing creation, $10 million for local park upgrades and $20 million in cycling and pedestrian improvements to the Pine Street-Pike street corridor, in addition to $1.5 million for a lidding study of Interstate 5. The convention center is also expected to put an additional $9.3 million toward housing for Seattle and King County, bringing public benefits to $92.1 million.
- The Seattle City Council and the Design Commission must still give their final approval to the project, which Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess expects to pass next year.
Cities across the country are beefing up their convention center capacities in order to capitalize on the profit potential of large-scale meetings and events — Washington state is no exception. WSCC officials have said space constraints within its existing structure have caused the center to have to pass on an estimated 300 events and $1.6 billion in revenue.
Even New York City's Jacob K. Javits Center, the main meeting facility there, is undergoing a thorough $1.5 billion upgrade in order to compete with other cities for lucrative convention business.
In addition to overhauling or expanding their existing convention facilities, cities are also trying to draw more business by providing better access to amenity-rich hotels nearby. Adding a connected, 400-room Hilton to the Palm Beach County Convention Center led to an immediate increase in business, according to convention center and sports venue management company, Spectra by Comcast Spectacor.
Mortenson Construction is helping the Portland-based Oregon Convention Center draw in and take advantage of convention business by building a 600-room Hyatt Regency across from the center. According to Oregon officials, national meeting planners were 79% more likely to book conventions at the center if it could offer visitors close proximity to a hotel like the one under construction.
Though convention center projects can mean big payoffs for the cities that host them, those projects are not without their critics. WSCC has drawn public criticism, according to KOMO News, because of the expansion's potential for construction-related congestion and its impact on affordable housing availability and affordability.