Broward will close its convention center for 19 months during expansion project

The expansion should boost exhibition space 75% by 2023, but the convention center is closing February 2020 to November 2021

Broward County Convention Center expansion rendering (Credit: Broward County| Sun Sentinel)
Broward County Convention Center expansion rendering (Credit: Broward County| Sun Sentinel)

Broward County plans close its convention center for 19 months to expedite an expansion of the waterfront property.

The Broward convention center is scheduled to close completely from February 2020 to November 2021. The shutdown is expected to shorten by two years an expansion that would increase the  center’s exhibition space by 75 percent.

The convention-center expansion will be “lower risk and lower cost” with a 19-month shutdown of the entire facility, assistant county administrator Alan Cohen told Broward commissioners at their meeting Tuesday.

Commissioners approved the plan to close the convention center temporarily, but some said the impact on Broward tourism might prove severe. Commissioner Tim Ryan a longer the convention center is shut down, the larger is the amount of tourism business “we might lose permanently.”

The expansion of the convention center is scheduled to unfold along with nearby construction of a waterfront outdoor plaza and an 800-room hotel. Omni Hotels would be the hotel manager.

Under current project schedules, expansion of the west side of the convention center would be completed in October 2021, the east-side expansion in January 2023 and the hotel in May 2023.

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The current estimated cost of the three-part project on county property is just over $1 billion, $100 more than the previous estimate.

Cohen said higher prices for building materials account for much of the increased cost estimate. Upgraded designs to improve resiliency to storms also added to the total estimated cost. He said the hotel, for example, is now designed to remain operable from the second floor if the first is flooded.

Broward County previously had planned to keep the convention center open throughout the expansion project. But closures of certain sections would have left too little space for larger conventions and trade shows, Cohen said.

The expansion project would increase exhibition space at the convention center by 75 percent to 350,000 square feet in about four years.

In the meantime, future events such as The Home Show and the Fort Lauderdale International Auto Show will have to find other venues during the Broward planned 19-month shutdown of the convention center, starting February 2020.

The county plans to issue bonds to finance the convention-center expansion and plaza development, estimated to cost $584 million, and the hotel project, which has an estimated cost of $491 million.

County commissioners also authorized a $1.3 million budget to cover compensatory payments to Broward hotels that lost reservations due to cancellations of events planned at the convention during the 19-month period when it will close. [Sun-Sentinel]Mike Seemuth

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