Major Redevelopment and Expansion Plans for Austin Convention Center Moves Forward
AUSTIN, Texas – On Monday, May 22, 2023, the City of Austin will seek a qualified professional design and engineering firm through a Request For Qualifications (RFQ) solicitation to provide comprehensive design, architecture, and engineering services for the redevelopment and expansion of the Austin Convention Center.
Upon the release, the RFQ kicks off the design stage of the project and is the next step in the redevelopment and expansion of the Austin Convention Center. The project has been studied and planned for several years to meet the demand from larger conventions and meeting groups that desire to come to Austin. Currently, the Austin Convention Center has 376,000 square feet of rentable space. The expansion and redevelopment target is to nearly double the amount of rentable space allowing the Center to remain competitive in the marketplace.
“This is an important day for the City of Austin. Releasing the RFQ for the design is the first of many steps, but is a vital one for our city’s future. An expanded convention center has been a topic of conversation for years and, as we continue to become a focal point in the world, we have to accommodate a large number of events,” said Kirk Watson, Mayor City of Austin. “With an inadequate convention center, we lose out to competitors and, consequently miss out on millions of dollars for our Austin community. With a bigger convention center, the economic impact to our city is estimated to jump to over $750 million annually, from the current $468 million. A larger facility also means more travelers to Austin and jobs in the Austin hospitality industry.”
“To give the community, visitors, and attendees the true authentic Austin experience, we want the new Austin Convention Center to be an iconic, innovative, and symbolic meeting location,” said Trisha Tatro, Director Austin Convention Center Department (ACCD). “Along with providing more rentable space, we want a signature design that will provide state-of-the-art technologies and be an industry-leading facility that is ready to exceed future clients’ needs.”
The current project timeline estimates that building closure, demolition, and construction activities will begin in 2025 with the new, larger facility reopening in 2029. The estimated project cost for the Austin Convention Center redevelopment and expansion is $1.6 billion and is fully funded from the Austin Convention Center’s allocation from the municipal Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) and Austin Convention Center revenues.
To minimize the impact on customers and the community, a one-phase building concept and approach model will be used for the construction project. In using a vertical approach to deliver a larger more efficient facility, the goal of the redevelopment of the Austin Convention Center is to transform the southeast corner of downtown into a community-centric destination for attendees and the community.
“Austin is blessed to have one of the liveliest urban cores in any American city that isn’t on a coast, but our convention center is outdated, undersized, and a barrier in the southeastern corner of Downtown,” said Zohaib Qadri, Austin City Council Member - District 9. “The vision to transform this space into a community-centric destination for visitors and residents alike while also re-stitching the grid is an exciting prospect for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that it could lead to new opportunities for a lot more affordable housing in the heart of District 9.”
Building within the same footprint, the project will integrate the exterior of the building into the fabric of the surrounding Palm District. It will reopen street grids, attracting visitors and locals alike to this iconic new structure in downtown Austin, and add an estimated additional $282 million of economic impact.
More detailed information about the City of Austin’s solicitation for the Austin Convention Center RFQ can be found here.
“We’re so pleased to support the Austin Convention Center and the City of Austin as they move forward with the redesign project,” said Michele Flores, SXSW Chief Logistics Officer. “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.”
“Austin is the 11th largest city in the U.S., but currently, we have the 59th largest Convention Center,” said Tom Noonan, President and CEO of Visit Austin. “In the last few years, we’ve seen roughly 50% of our Convention Center leads lost due to the lack of space or availability, so we know the demand for a new center is there. This new center will allow us to be more competitive within the state and with our major national competitors.”
“When downtown is filled with conventions, we see that impact across the entire city, in restaurants, live music venues, retail shops, and more. But, it doesn’t stop there. Hotel Occupancy Tax also supports our cultural arts programs, including music and historic preservation, so those will see a benefit from this redevelopment, as well,” said Noonan.
“Over the past decade, this project has been evaluated through many studies, including one from the University of Texas. All of the studies supported an expansion,” said Mayor Watson. “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.”
The Austin Convention Center is located at 500 E. Cesar Chavez Street, Austin, TX 78701. More information about the history, timeline, and links to the studies of the redevelopment of the Austin Convention Center can be found here.
ADDITIONAL STATEMENTS AND QUOTES:
“We are excited to hear about the announcement and progress of the redevelopment of the Austin Convention Center. We know Austin would be a great destination for our conference. The planned new center, due to the significant increase in meeting space, would ensure a more successful experience for our attendees. We have been holding dates in Austin for 2032, and this is the news we’ve been waiting for. I believe this planned redevelopment will open the door for many more groups to consider Austin for their future conferences.”
- Kirsten Olean, CAE, CMP, Senior Director, Meeting Planning & Design of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and past Chair of PCMA
“This announcement is an exciting one for the Austin hotel community. Not only will a new and redeveloped convention center bring more meetings and events business to Austin, but create more jobs for our industry and further positively impact the Austin hospitality community at large. This project has long been in the works and we are happy to finally see this come to fruition.”
- Nenad Praporski, General Manager of Fairmont Austin and Chairman of the Austin Hotel Lodging Association
“I understand some restaurateurs in the downtown area may have a fear of lost revenue during the convention center construction, but I personally can assure them that the entire Visit Austin team is and will be working tirelessly to keep our hotels and conference rooms full. Meetings will still be happening, visitors will still be here, so restaurants will still see business from our meetings and leisure visitors during that time.”
- Skeeter Miller, President & Owner of The County Line BBQ and Vice Chair of the Texas Restaurant Association
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