Willets Point convention center still in the works

February 09, 2012 01:00PM

With Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan for a convention center near the Aqueduct in Queens grabbing headlines, the New York Times checked in on the status of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan for a similar, albeit smaller, convention center in the borough.

The Willets Point convention center is still in the works, the Times found. It’s a curious development — two centers within miles of one another — considering the general appetite for convention centers has faded with the growth of the Internet. Attendance fell to two million people in 2010 at the nation’s largest such facility, McCormick Place in Chicago, compared to the three million people who passed through it in 2001. Javits Center attendance figures decreased to 633,000 in 2009, down about 1.3 million people since 1990.

Bloomberg continues to push the Willets Point plan as an engine to steer the area from a series of auto repair garages to the city’s “next great neighborhood.” The city broke ground in December on much-needed infrastructure repairs to pave the way for development. But a convention center is still a long way down the road, as the first phase of the project calls for 400 apartments, a hotel and 680,000 square feet of retail. Even that won’t get started until the city finishes acquiring the land through eminent domain.

For now, the Queens Chamber of Commerce is pushing the convention center as a compliment to the Aqueduct plan. At 400,000 square feet, the Willets Point center would service regional conferences that require more space than would be available in a hotel, but less than the massive space planned for the Aqueduct. [NYT]