AUSTIN (KXAN) — After the City of Austin announced it was moving forward with the next stage of its convention center expansion project, KXAN received several Report!ts asking about how the city got to this point and how they’re going to pay for the massive project.

“The public has a right to expect transparency and accountability when billions of dollars are being invested in a questionable venture,” said City Accountability Project Political Action Committee co-founder Laura Cantu-Templeton in a release last week.

KXAN took those questions to the director of the Austin Convention Center and the CEO and president of Visit Austin:

How is the city paying for the expansion?

The rebuild will cost $1.6 billion 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, KXAN has previously reported.

“So this project will not be funded by property taxes or by the citizens of Austin. This will be completely funded by the convention center’s allocation of the hotel occupancy tax,” said Trisha Tatro, director of the Austin Convention Center.

How long this will this take?

Last month, the city released its request for proposal (RFP) for design companies. Convention center staff hope it can bring a contract to Austin City Council to begin the design process before 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.

What will the new convention center look like?

Moving forward, Austinites will be given the opportunity to weigh in on design options for the new convention center. The building won’t be expanding outside of its current footprint, but will be taller.

Tatro would like to see additional green space and parks built into the design, along with opening up some of the street near the convention center and adding retail space to attract people to the area.

“We’re going to build a convention center of the future that fits into this new urban downtown Austin,” Tatro said.

Will surrounding businesses be impacted?

Nenad Praporski, the general manager of Fairmont Hotel Austin, previously spoke to KXAN about his thoughts on the expansion. Praporski’s hotel is across the street from the convention center and he expects there will be 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 previously said.

The expansion is expected to bring in roughly $285 million in tourism dollars every year once completed, according to Tatro.

Visit Austin is also working on a $12-$15 million campaign that will bring in additional tourism dollars during construction and beyond.

“If you’re a restaurant and you’re a music venue, you’re a musician, and you get hired on a Monday or Tuesday, it might be because there’s a big convention in town,” said Tom Noonan, president and CEO of Visit Austin.

What will happen to SXSW?

The construction will have an impact on one of the largest events in the city, the South by Southwest Conference & Festivals. Michele Flores, the event’s 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 said in a release.

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.

Why is this necessary?

According to Tatro, Austin’s convention center is the 59th largest in the nation, though Austin is the 10th largest city. Tatro said the city is losing money as a result.

Visit Austin projects the expansion will allow the city to pull more than $250 million additional a year. Noonan said the city has to turn away roughly 100 possible events a year, some of which are worth anywhere from $10-$15 million.

“At the very beginning, their meeting has to fit in our convention center. And I’ll tell you right now, 50% of our leads that come in for the convention center, we can’t accommodate because we’re either too small or we’re sold out,” Noonan said.