AUSTIN (KXAN) — The city of Austin announced this week it started the process of looking for an engineering firm to design the convention center expansion project, with the target to nearly double the amount of rentable space in the building.
The project has been talked about for years, with the city conducting studies and analysis on the expansion of its downtown convention center, to meet the demands of a growing city.
The city says it plans to start building closure, demolition, and construction activities in 2025 and will reopen the new and improved site in 2029, according to a news release.
Impact of surrounding hotels and events
This means there will be four years of no conventions and events at the center, and even more construction for a downtown area that is already riddled with cranes and construction projects.
Nenad Praporski, the general manager of Fairmont Hotel Austin, looks at the situation as glass half full. His hotel is right across the street from the convention center, and he expects there will be some short term losses from construction and the lack of conventions. But he said the hotel will find a way to fill its rooms and the new convention center will be worth it in the end.
“We will have something for all of us to be proud about,” Praporski said.
The construction will also have an impact on one of the largest events in the city, South by Southwest. Michele Flores, the events chief logistics officer, said in a city news release that SXSW is excited and supports the expansion of the convention center.
“While we’re excited about the prospect of reimagining SXSW for a few years, we look forward to returning to the new convention center in 2029 for an improved SXSW experience,” Flores explained.
What’s the cost?
The building will cost $1.6 billion and will be funded by the convention center’s revenue and its allocation of the hotel occupancy tax. In 2019, the city council approved an increase of the hotel occupancy tax rate of 2% for the expansion project.
“This is a big win for the City of Austin and its residents since this project is being funded by visitors who stay in hotels, and the funding is not coming out of our residents’ property taxes,” Mayor Kirk Watson said in the city’s news release.
The building will remain in the same footprint it is currently in, but it will be built higher. The city said it expects to nearly double the 376,000 square feet of rentable space it has now.
The city is estimating the new convention center will bring in an additional $282 million of economic impact.