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By Susanna Jackson
The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority is seeking to expand the South Boston exhibition hall by 60%, a project that will cost $1 billion.
James Rooney, the authority’s executive director says this expansion is necessary for Boston to be a top destination for meeting and trade shows. Rooney says the current space, which opened in 2004, is inadequate; Boston had to pass on 14-17 conventions a year because there is not enough space to accommodate them.
The project has been discussed for many years, but the legislation just been filed on Wednesday. This move, as well as Rooney’s assurance that the new facility will not require any new taxs or fees for funding, signals the director believes he has a good chance of approval. If the legislation is approved by the end of the year, construction could begin as early as 2013, and the space could open in 2017.
A separate but related project the MCCA is pursuing is a 1,500-room hotel, adjacent to the revamped convention center. While the new center wouldn’t require new taxes or fees, the hotel would. Public assistance estimates for the construction of a new hotel is at tens of millions of dollars. Private lenders and contractors are unlikely to take the risk singlehandedly.
Rooney says Boston is at a disadvantage to other cities because of the lack of accommodations in the convention centers area. Cities such as New Orleans and Chicago have 7,500 rooms within a half mile radius for attendees, whereas Boston only has 1,700 rooms. The new hotel would almost double the current room count.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Governer Deval Patrick withheld comment on the proposal.