AUSTIN (KXAN) — The $1.6 billion project to redevelop and expand the Austin Convention Center is moving ahead this week.
The project is expected to begin in 2025 with the center’s closure, demolition and construction. The new convention center is expected to open in 2029, according to the city.
On Monday, the city will start the process to find a design and engineering firm to provide the design, architecture and engineering services for the project.
The goal is to double the size of the center to make it more competitive, a city release said. It is currently 376,000 square feet of rentable space.
“With an inadequate convention center, we lose out to competitors and, consequently, miss out on millions of dollars for our Austin community,” Mayor Kirk Watson said in a release. “With a bigger convention center, the economic impact to our city is estimated to jump to over $750 million annually, from the current $468 million.”
The project is planned to finish in one phase with a vertical approach to “minimize the impact on customers and the community,” the city said.
The project is funded with the Hotel Occupancy Tax and convention center revenues.
The convention center is home to many large Austin events, including the South by Southwest Festival. In a release, SXSW’s chief logistics officer Michele Flores said the festival will be reimagined for a few years, but they look forward to returning “for an improved SXSW experience.”
Conversations about a convention center expansion have circulated for years. In 2017, a proposal was released with cost estimates between $400 and $600 million. In 2019, discussions heated up when opposing Political Action Committees launched for and against the project. Then, in 2020, city officials confirmed the convention center project was still moving ahead with a $1.2 billion price tag.
“In the last few years, we’ve seen roughly 50% of our Convention Center leads lost due to the lack of space or availability, so we know the demand for a new center is there,” Visit Austin CEO Tom Noonan said in the release.