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Convention Center District Authority Reconsiders Best Use Of Isla Grande Site

Should Initiate By November The RFQ Process To Find Companies Interested In Developing The Convention Center’s 850-Room Anchor Hotel


September 11, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

A new viability study by Colliers International, a global real-estate services firm, has prompted the Convention Center District Authority to re-evaluate whether to build more residential homes and fewer offices at the site of the forthcoming convention center in Isla Grande, Manuel Sanchez, the authority’s executive director, told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS.

"What we are doing is preparing the parcels of land for mixed-use purposes so the demand when they go out to bid dictates what should be developed," Sanchez said. The Convention Center District Authority is responsible for providing the necessary infrastructure for the parcels, including the water and electrical systems.

The district, which Sanchez says will be Puerto Rico’s largest mixed-use real-estate project, has 4.4 million square feet of construction space on 11 parcels. The private sector must invest $900 million in the district, with the government contributing $415 million.

According to the revised study, residential homes have become Puerto Rico’s prime real-estate market as a consequence of the downturn in the economy, 9/11, and the war in Iraq. Two years ago, there was more emphasis on office space. The study indicates, however, that by 2008, Puerto Rico will have 18% more office space than required to satisfy demand.

The original study proposed 718,000 square feet of office space and 525 residential apartments. Most of the homes were to be outside the Convention Center District, closer to Fernandez Juncos Avenue, on the site of the former Black Angus strip club. "Now we are considering building apartments inside the district with hopes of adding ambience to the area," Sanchez said.

The 15-year master plan for the district, based on the original study, also calls for a 580,000-square-foot convention center (three times the size of Hato Rey’s Roberto Clemente Coliseum), two hotels (850 rooms and 920 rooms), movie theaters, restaurants, commercial space, and a museum.

By November, the Convention Center District Authority intends to initiate the Request for Qualification (RFQ) process to find companies interested in developing the convention center’s 850-room anchor hotel. The district has permits for a developer to build a hotel with a minimum of 500 and a maximum of 850 rooms, a casino, movie theaters, and an entertainment center.

"We are going to invite international, U.S. mainland, and local investors to see the project," Sanchez said. "The hotel was originally to have been built on one nine-acre parcel, but we might divide four parcels to construct the building, depending on what the developer wants."

Industry sources say Hyatt International and Marriott International are among those interested in operating the anchor hotel. The convention center, which is already 29% complete, should be ready by June 2005. The new Colliers International study indicates market conditions have changed on the U.S. mainland and there is now an oversupply of convention centers. There will be 421 convention centers in the States by 2006. Nevertheless, Puerto Rico’s convention center, said to be the largest in the Caribbean, should be able to sustain itself through the rent collected on the parcels.

"We are trying to see how we can speed up the development of the parcels," Sanchez said. "The original master plan was structured and planned but not implemented, and thank God it wasn’t because of the change in the economy. If it had been defined as planned, we would have had problems."

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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