City Council on Monday unanimously approved a $110 million plan to expand and renovate the Charlotte Convention Center, adding new meeting space and breakout rooms in an attempt to lure more events.
Construction is expected to start next year, funded by the city’s hospitality tax, and would run through 2020. That means at least part of the Convention Center is likely to be under construction during the 2020 Republican National Convention, which runs Aug. 24-27.
The 23-year-old building runs for three blocks on Stonewall Street, opposite a massive amount of new development that includes a Whole Foods, three hotels including a JW Marriott luxury hotel, new office towers and hundreds of luxury apartments. Since opening, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority says the meeting market has changed, with planners demanding more breakout rooms, space for smaller meetings and less square footage of floor space for massive exhibits.
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The renovation has been in the works since 2015. The project will add 93,000 square feet of space along Stonewall Street, including large windows in what’s now mostly a blank wall facing the sidewalk. Fifteen new meeting spaces with movable walls that can be further subdivided will be included. A pedestrian bridge across Stonewall Street will connect the center to the Novel apartment and retail development, as well as the Blue Line light-rail station and the 700-room Westin Hotel.
“This is a piece our planners have been asking us for basically since the building’s been open,” said Steve Bagwell, vice president of venues for the CRVA, at a City Council meeting earlier this month. “We think this will be almost like another main entrance we’re adding to the building.”
Plans for an expansion of the ballroom terrace and a new event space above the light rail were dropped due to their cost, CRVA spokeswoman Laura White said.
Monday’s vote by City Council includes formally appropriating the $110 million from the Convention Center Fund, selecting the Holder-Edison Foard-Leeper Company as construction manager at-risk for the project and TVS North Carolina to provide architectural services.
The Convention Center generated $19.2 million in fiscal 2018, White said, a record-high for fees from the venue’s bookings. That includes conventions and amateur sports events that used the Convention Center. There were 47 non-local events with 155,226 total attendees at the venue in fiscal 2018.