A $110 million renovation of the Charlotte Convention Center would include a new pedestrian bridge next to the Lynx Blue Line, and a roughly 30-foot high “picture frame outlook” to give guests a view of Stonewall Street.
The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority does not plan to expand the footprint of the 22-year-old center. But the renovation project is designed to make the building more attractive to residents and convention guests, by remaking the Stonewall Street side with more windows.
In addition, the CRVA plans to create more smaller meeting space. The tourism authority said conventions have shifted away from wanting large exhibit hall space in favor of smaller rooms.
“The market has evolved on their needs and demands,” said Tom Murray, president of the CRVA. “(Not having enough) breakout space is one reason why we weren’t as competitive.”
The renovations would be paid for with hotel/motel and bar and restaurant taxes.
Republican council member Ed Driggs asked whether the project will pay for itself with new business that the CRVA can book from the Convention Center after the renovations are finished.
Murray said a CRVA consultant estimated that the renovations would pay for themselves in new business in three to five years.
That may be difficult.
The convention center business is very competitive, and a number of other cities have also made similar improvements and renovations in their centers. Will a renovated center allow Charlotte to capture new meetings and conventions – or will it allow the city to keep existing business that might have gone somewhere else?
If City Council approves the project, construction would start in the spring of 2019.
The pedestrian walkway would be build alongside the light-rail line over Stonewall Street. It would allow convention guests to walk from the center to both the Westin hotel and the new Crescent Stonewall Station development under construction, which includes a Whole Foods.
Democratic council member LaWana Mayfield asked whether the CRVA asked the Westin to help pay for the pedestrian bridge, since the hotel will benefit.
Murray said the hotel already contributes by paying the hotel/motel occupancy tax. He said the Westin will benefit from the convention center improvements, but so will other hotels.