AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council is expected to vote on two contracts Thursday worth nearly $1.3 billion to move forward with its Austin Convention Center expansion project.
The first contract is with LMN and Page, two companies, for design and engineering. That contract is worth $65 million, according to council documents.
The other is for $1.2 billion and will go toward construction and preconstruction. That contract is with JE Dunn and Turner, documents show.
The rebuild is expected to cost $1.6 billion overall, KXAN previously reported, and will be funded by convention center revenue and its allocation of the hotel occupancy tax. In 2019, city council approved an increase of the hotel occupancy tax rate of 2% for the expansion project.
Austinites will be given the opportunity to weigh in on design options for the new convention center, but the City of Austin has said the design will open up closed streets in the area, better connecting east and west Austin. It will also add green space.
The building won’t be expanding outside of its current footprint, but will be taller. Convention Center staff say the expansion will double the available space. There will also be space added underground, staff said.
“With the doubling of the expansion, we will be able to host larger events and not only that, we’ll be able to layer them in with each other. And so with those events that come in you’ve got folks that are visiting the restaurants, they’re going to the shops, they’re staying in the hotels,” Katy Zamesnik, assistant director at the Austin Convention Center, told City Council members Tuesday.
If the contract is approved, design will start in early 2024. The city plans to close the convention center for construction after South by Southwest in 2025 and reopen the new building before SXSW in 2029.
The City plans to keep its roughly 300 convention center staff even during construction, they said Tuesday during a work session.
“One avenue that we’re planning to utilize that was very successful during COVID was reallocating our staff and our team to other City departments where there are staffing vacancies,” said Trisha Tatro, director of the Austin Convention Center.