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Puerto Rico Convention Center Breaks Ground

After years of planning, the much-anticipated project is becoming a reality

by Evelyn Guadalupe-Fajardo

April 27, 2000
Copyright © 2000 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

The much-talked-about Puerto Rico Convention Center at the Americas World Trade District (AWTD)–the heart of the billion-dollar Golden Triangle project–is ready to become a reality after four years of strategic planning by the Rossello administration.

"The convention center is very important for the entire hotel industry because it will allow us [hoteliers] to attract a new market of larger groups that we can’t accommodate due to lack of space," Reinhard Werthner, president-elect of the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association, said in regards to the importance of the Puerto Rico Trade and Convention Center District.

Tomorrow, Gov. Pedro Rossello and the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. will celebrate the groundbreaking of Isla Grande’s new convention center, scheduled to open late 2002.

The Puerto Rico Convention Center is expected to create 3,200 new permanent jobs and 9,250 construction jobs. It is also projected to have an attendance of 242,000 visitors during its first year of business. That should provide an economic impact of $90 million in direct spending and $130 million in indirect and induced spending annually.

Last month, the Tourism Co. signed letters of intent with a construction manager and a developer for the AWTD.

Atlanta-based Hardin Construction/QB Construction was selected as construction manager of the $342.5 million AWTD, including its $142.5 million Puerto Rico Convention Center, while LCOR Inc. was chosen to develop its $200 million Super Block–a complex of two hotels, the World Trade Center, and a retail and entertainment area (CB Mar. 2).

The Super Block will complement the new Convention Center with a headquarters hotel and an 800-room, full-service hotel and casino. It will also include the World Trade Center, the first of two office towers that will house the newly licensed Puerto Rico World Trade Association, restaurants, retail and entertainment establishments, and a multiplex cinema.

LCOR–a national real estate company with corporate and executive offices in Pennsylvania and operating offices in major metro areas–is formalizing a preliminary agreement with Marriott Corp. to operate the headquarters hotel.

Total investment, both public and private, of Phase I of this AWTD is $600 million, including residential development. This represents $300 million in government funding and $300 million in private investment. Tourism officials said there will be two more phases of this project.

Selection Process

The Tourism Co. conducted two Request-for-Qualifications (RFQ) processes simultaneously. A RFQ for development opportunities was published in Sept. 1999 and a RFQ for construction manager was published in Nov. 1999. Packages were mailed to leading firms in both categories (real estate/hotel development and the construction industry), published on the project’s web site, and advertised in local, national, and international publications.

Sixteen teams responded to the RFQ for development opportunities, which included both the "Super Block" and the smaller low-rise office and residential sites and parking facilities. Five teams submitted responses to the construction manager RFQ. The Tourism Co. Board of Directors shortened the list to six development teams in Oct. 1999 and three construction manager teams in Dec. 1999. Finalists were interviewed in January 2000 and by unanimous vote of the Board, the team of Hardin/QB Construction was selected as construction manager and LCOR was chosen as "Super Block" developer.

The Americas World Trade District

The AWTD is anchored by the Puerto Rico Convention Center at the Americas World Trade District, located on the 110-acre Isla Grande site that was formerly the San Juan Naval Station and Coast Guard base. Phase I of the convention center including a 150,000-square-foot exhibit hall; 40,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art meeting area; and a 40,000-square-foot ballroom.

In Phase I, the surrounding AWTD will create a mix of uses including an adjacent headquarters hotel, the Puerto Rico World Trade Center, PRISMA (the children’s museum), offices and residential units. Other planned elements of future phases of the AWTD include a second hotel, additional residential units, the second tower of the World Trade Center, 250,000 square feet of office space, 8,000 parking spaces, and two expansions of the Puerto Rico Convention Center, each with 150,000 square feet of additional exhibit hall space and more meeting, banquet and support areas.

Puerto Rico World Trade Center at the Americas World Trade District

Upon its opening in late 2002, the Puerto Rico World Trade Center will become a licensed member of the international World Trade Center Association, a network of 300 World Trade Centers in approximately 100 countries.

In Phase I, the Super Block will include the first of two office towers in the World Trade Center complex, with approximately 210,00 square feet of net leasable space. These buildings will become the premier location in Puerto Rico for international business to be transacted.

The office building will serve as the home of the future Puerto Rico World Trade Center Association and will feature an international business club and an educational facility for local businesses.

Land use program (Convention Center precinct)

The general land use program totals approximately five million gross square feet and is positioned on the site to create synergies and interactions in the urban district. The land-use pattern is divided into four development "precincts" that include the Convention Center, Promenade, Canal Park, and Miramar West.

The Convention Center precinct, the largest in the District, will serve as the catalyst for the development of other uses. Located at the south end of the District, the Convention Center precinct creates a separation between the port storage area and the visitor-oriented uses.

The development program in the Convention Center precinct is limited to Parcel A and the 1,299,800 gross square feet Convention Center. Parking in this precinct is accommodated in a 1,950-space, one-level garage under the Convention Center.

Promenade precinct

The Promenade precinct is located on the east side of the San Antonio Canal. This precinct consists of Parcels B, C, and H, and accommodates most of the hotel, office, retail, restaurant and entertainment uses in the District. The mix of uses in this precinct consists of 372,300 gross square feet of retail, restaurant, and entertainment space, 850 hotel rooms, 490,360 square feet of office space, and a 53,650-square-foot Corporate Education Center.The cinema and retail uses are along the promenade. The World Trade Center, located in the southeast corner of this precinct, will have direct access to the Convention Center and hotel. This precinct, with the widest mix of uses, includes approximately 2,600 parking spaces located underneath buildings and in strategically located parking structures.

Canal Park precinct

The Canal Park precinct, west of the San Antonio Canal, consists of Parcels I and J. The development program for these parcels consists of a second hotel and the children’s exploratorium, Prisma.

The hotel site will accommodate up to a 1-million-square-foot, 920-room facility. Prisma is nearly 150,200 square feet of interactive museum space. There are 436 parking spaces within the Canal Park precinct.

Miramar West precinct

The Miramar West precinct consists of development Parcels D, E, F, and G. This precinct is intended to be an extension of the Miramar neighborhood to the east of the Baldorioty de Castro Boulevard. The primary land uses in the precinct are residential and office.

The precinct accommodates 563 residential units and about 225,300 square feet of office space. Within two parking garages and subsurface decks, the area accommodates 2,480 parking spaces. These parcels help to connect the District to the Miramar neighborhood. Small urban parks and gateway parks will help to create an urban neighborhood for the proposed condominiums and office buildings.


The development of the District has been planned to take place in three phases over a maximum of 15 years.

The Americas World Trade District Phase I (starts this year, concludes late 2002)

- Phase I of Convention center construction

- Parcel B with up to 800-room hotel (excluding parking garage)

- Phase I of World Trade Center

- Urban entertainment center/retail complex

- 225 housing units

- Prisma (Exploratorium)

- District infrastructure

The Americas World Trade District Phase II (year of construction not available)

- Phase 2 of Convention Center construction

- 338 housing units

- Office buildings on parcels D through G

- Retail uses in parcel H

The Americas World Trade District Phase III (year of construction not available)

- Phase 3 of Convention Center construction

- 400-room hotel (920 with variance)

- Phase II World Trade Center

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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