AUSTIN (KXAN) — The 300 employees who work at the Austin Convention Center will keep their jobs during the four-year expansion project, with some employees being shifted to fill vacancies in other city departments, the center’s director told council members this week.

Trisha Tatro, the director of the Austin Convention Center, said a core team will remain under her department to operate the Palmer event center, the Marshalling Yard, and three parking garages. The remaining employees will be reallocated to other city departments.

“We will work with those department directors,” Tatro said during a work session on Tuesday. “We will allocate which employees have which skill sets.”

Filling city job vacancies

The city of Austin is still trying to fill multiple job vacancies. The Human Resources department tells KXAN the vacancy rate is 12.9% with 2,016 openings out of the 15,669 full-time positions. In October 2022, the vacancy rate was at 17.6%. The city ran a six-month campaign to fill those vacancies starting in February, and were able to lower the vacancy rate to 15.9% in April.

Jesús Garza, the interim city manager, said a lot of city departments could benefit from the convention center employees.

“That’s the intent, to make sure no one loses their job and then they’re back at the convention center once you cut the ribbon and we’re ready to roll,” Garza explained.

The current convention center is expected to be demolished after South by Southwest in 2025, and then reopened on the same footprint in 2029.

Architecture firms, construction managers chosen for project

Later on Thursday, the Austin City Council unanimously approved the selection of architecture and construction managers for the Austin Convention Center project, as it enters its next phase, according to a news release from the City of Austin.

Architecture firm LMN Architects and Page Southerland Page (LMN | Page) were chosen to provide full-scale design and architectural engineering services for the convention center’s expansion, according to the city.

Additionally, JE Dunn Construction and Turner Construction (JE Dunn | Turner) will cover preconstruction and construction services as the Construction Manager-at-Risk firm, the release said.

The project is expected to cost around $1.6 billion, the city said. Both architecture and construction managers are joint ventures, according to the city.

“Receiving the Austin City Council’s approval and support to negotiate and execute these contracts marks a pivotal step in moving this transformational project forward,” said Trisha Tatro, Director of the Austin Convention Center Department (ACCD). “The selected firms bring unparalleled expertise in their respective fields and have a demonstrated ability to provide innovative thinking toward design and construction techniques. This effort aligns perfectly with our goal of constructing a culturally iconic, state-of-the-art convention center in Austin.”

Thursday’s council approval gives the city full authority to negotiate and execute contracts for the firms and construction managers. The goal is to initiate design work starting in early 2024, according to the city.

The current project timeline estimates that building closure, demolition and construction activities will begin in 2025 with the new, larger facility reopening in late 2028, according to the city.

Architectural Firms Summary

  • LMN Architects is an American architecture firm with over 44 years of experience and has provided planning and design services for 70 convention center assignments. Based out of Seattle, LMN’s projects include the Vancouver Convention Center and recently completed work on the Seattle Convention Center.
  • Austin-based Page Southerland Page is an architectural firm with over 125 years of experience in multidisciplinary projects. Page has provided planning and design services for the Texas Capital Complex Master Plan, served as the master architect/engineer for Texas Capital Complex Phase 1 Buildings, and for terminal expansion at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and George Bush International Airport in Houston.

Construction Managers Summary

  • JE Dunn Construction has over 99 years of experience including 70 local projects. JE Dunn’s Austin office has been ranked either as the No. 1 or No. 2 commercial construction company in Austin for three consecutive years. JE Dunn’s project experience includes the Texas Facilities Commission Capital Complex Master Plan, the Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas, and the Sixth and Guadalupe mixed-use tower, which stands at 66 stories (865 feet) and is currently Austin’s tallest building.
  • Turner Construction Company is a North American-based international construction services company with over 120 years of experience. With offices and projects completed in Austin, Turner is the largest Construction Manager-at-Risk firm in the nation having completed over 25 convention center projects across the country. Turner’s project experiences include significant expansion work at the Las Vegas Convention Center and Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.