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Government Focuses On Beginning Convention Centers Construction
Permits, interior design, cost readjustment, financing, and ground tests being completed so construction bids can come out in September
By EVELYN GUADALUPE-FAJARDO
August 23, 2001
The Calderon administration is moving full-speed ahead to start the construction of Isla Grandes new $365 million Convention Center, which is scheduled to be ready by the summer of 2004.
The government has obtained the necessary permits and completed the Centers interior design, expected to project a Caribbean flavor.
"The centers construction plan is 98% complete and cost readjustments are also nearly done," Puerto Rico Convention Bureau Business Development Director Ana Viscasillas said. "Once the financing scheme is completed, we should see construction within 30 days."
During the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Associations (PRHTA) Annual Convention at the Caribe Hilton, Janis Ostling, CEO of PavCothe company that manages & operates Vancouvers Convention & Exhibition Centerpointed out that the ability to deliver a unique experience is of paramount importance.
"It is very smart of Puerto Rico to sell a local experience," she said.
Ostling added that in recent years, 42 convention facilities in North American have carried out expansions & upgrades, while many international destinations have introduced new centers to the market. In short, she said, there is more intense competition for existing businesses and the need for facilities to distinguish themselves is imperative.
Last week, Gov. Sila Calderon announced at PRHTAs Convention that the construction bids would start coming out in September, as soon as ground tests on the 110 acres in Isla Grande are concluded.
In May, the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. announced modifications to the new center that would cut its cost by $135 million without affecting square footage.
The Convention Center will have over 580,000 square feet of developed spaced, three times the size of the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in Hato Rey. It will include 159,000 square feet of exhibit space or raw meeting space, a 40,000 square foot ballroomtwice the size of the largest one currently on the island, 85,000 square feet of pre-function space, and 200,000 square feet of service space.
Jorge Pesquera, executive director of the Convention Bureau, is delighted with the idea that the island will finally have a convention center, but he still believes the new building lacks meeting spaceprojected at 40,000 square feet with 25 breakout rooms. Pesquera says he would reduce exhibit space to increase meeting space.
"But you never know how the market is going to move," said Pesquera, referring to tradeshows, which typically require considerable exhibit space. One project that would definitely complement the Convention Center as a backup in the case of a shortage in its meeting space would be the nearby headquarters hotel, he added.
The government is still negotiating with LCOR, a hotel development company chosen by the past administration to build the Super Block and the headquarters hotelthat would be operated by Marriott International.
"We are making sure the hotel is developed as soon as possible in coordination with the new Convention Center because it is essential to the projects success," Gov. Calderon said.
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.