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Old August 11th, 2008, 09:43 PM   #1
Big Texan
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IRVING | Las Colinas Convention Center | U/C

Just Approved!

$137M Convention Center Gets Moving in October
By Connie Gore

IRVING, TX-After a 10-year birthing process, city officials will break ground in October on a $137-million convention center. The 275,000-sf, innovative stacked design will go vertical in second quarter 2009 and deliver no later than Nov. 1, 2010.

The four-story structure will be built with 3,600 tons of recycled steel and skinned with 150 tons of perforated copper cladding, selected for its low maintenance and ability to endure drastic climate changes. The irregularly shaped floor plates will have 50,000 sf of column-free exhibit space, a 20,000-sf ballroom on the top floor, 20 break-out rooms, each about 1,000 sf, and an 800-space parking garage wrapping two sides of the building. The convention center and garage will take up 12 acres on the northern end of the city's 40-acre mixed-use tract, which is bounded by Texas 114, Northwest Highway, Las Colinas Boulevard and Fuller Drive.

"It is modern, sculptural and a very recognizable silhouette that will be visible from the tarmac of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport," says Barbara Hillier, principal of Princeton, NJ-based RMJM Hillier, the North American division of UK-based RMJM Group. "It's a new kind of convention center." She and RMJM principal Eric Jaffe started working on the iconic design about six months ago.

"Our biggest challenge was to take the vertical concept and make it interesting," Jaffe tells GlobeSt.com. "I don't think there is anything conventional about this convention center. It represents the next generation of quality of construction and development in the area."

Hillier, the lead architect, says the goal was to create a keystone project for the city, making it pedestrian friendly and a destination driver. The firm also developed the master plan for the 40-acre tract, which one day will hold a 3,500-seat concert venue, 215,000 sf of restaurants and retail and a privately developed hotel, spa and condominiums. A DART light-rail station will be parked within 1,500 feet of the convention center's backdoor. The station opens in 2011, first opening the door to Downtown Dallas and two years later making D/FW airport accessible from the transit stop.

City officials last week locked in the steel price, agreeing to a $22-million contract with North Texas Steel Co. Inc. of Fort Worth. The steel is recycled material from old vehicles, which is coming from Nucor-Yamato Steel Co. of Armorel, AR. The price had to be locked "because of the volatility of the marketplace," says Robert Kuykendall, Dallas-based Beck Group's project manager for the job. "It's going up $35 per ton per month. For every month we wait, we'd lose about $100,000."

Kuykendall says site work will begin in September, setting up an October groundbreaking. Austin Commercial's Roger Files in Dallas is the project's construction manager. Philadelphia-based SMG has a five-year contract to manage and operate the convention center, including kitchen and catering.

The Irving project was resurrected last May, going through several revisions before the plan was stamped as done. "As frustrating as it's been over the last 10 years, it's so much better and more dynamic. It's a better project in the short and long term," Maura Allen Gast, executive director of the Irving Convention & Visitors' Bureau, tells GlobeSt.com. "We are ready."

Gast says she immediately sent an e-mail to her staff after last week's meeting, telling them to start chasing bookings. With much of the groundwork already laid, she says the first booking could be in hand within 60 days. "We've been talking about it to clients for a very long time," she says.

Gast's staff is targeting groups from 800 to 1,200 although the center's capacity is 4,000. The target markets are corporate meetings, trade shows, regional events and sporting events as the team looks to pick up bookings from functions that have outgrown their usual hotel spaces. The design's flexibility allows two simultaneous large events, without bumping each other's shoulders, Gast and the architects point out. The underlying strategy is to keep the center filled midweek and weekends.

"We have the best opportunity to influence the market citywide is weekends," Gast says. "Over the course of time, it will influence occupancy and visitor revenues."

The 26-member staff is still coming to terms that the project is going to happen this time. "It feels really good. We're really going to get it," Gast says, her voice reflecting birthing pride more so than relief.

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Old August 11th, 2008, 09:45 PM   #2
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Old August 25th, 2008, 11:05 PM   #3
Big Texan
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Third time’s the charm
Now in its third incarnation, the Irving Convention Center is finally moving forward
Dallas Business Journal - by Katherine Cromer Brock Staff writer

In 1998, plans for the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas were moving in the direction of a typical convention center, a mammoth rectangular building with 100,000 square feet of exhibit space.

The center was going to be funded totally by hotel and motel taxes, but because the national hospitality industry suffered in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., the project was shelved in 2003.

In 2005, plans were reopened, dusted off, and eventually scrapped.

At that time, the Dallas Cowboys had announced they were abandoning Texas Stadium, and city officials were open to discussion about what type of facility needed to be built.

Now, construction is scheduled to begin by early October on a modified design for the center, one that will better serve the needs of Irving and its business travelers, said Maura Gast, executive director of the Irving Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The convention center will be built on 40 acres southeast of State Highway 114 and Spur 348. It will have 50,000 square feet of column-free exhibit space; a 20,000-square-foot ballroom; 20, 1,000-square-foot meeting rooms; and, an indoor/outdoor cafe.

The copper-plate building will have a modern, angular design, and will be constructed to green-building standards, said architect Barbara Hillier of New York-based RMJM Hillier.

“Convention centers are becoming sort of the spur for economic development across the globe,” Hillier said. “It’s about stimulating business and tourism in Irving. Being in the middle between Fort Worth and Dallas, it’s challenged to do that.”

According to numbers from San Francisco-based Destination Analysts Inc., Irving has had some success in attracting business travelers.

In 2007, there were 2.87 million visitors to the city, said Managing Partner Dave Bratton. Those visitors pumped $1.47 billion into the Irving economy. Of that, $194.3 million was spent on conferences and meetings.

In the first half of 2008, 77.8 percent of visitors to Irving said they were in the city for a group meeting, business or government trip.

“People coming here to Irving are highly educated, highly affluent,” Bratton said.

Gast said the new building, and planned adjoining hotel, will cater to businesses looking for meeting space in Irving.

“It’s not meant to be the biggest place in the world,” she said of the center, which will not have room to expand. “There will always be a business that’s way too big for this building, but they have plenty of choices in the D-FW area. There are far more than tens of thousands of meetings that will fit into this space.”

City officials granted the contract for the building’s steel on Aug. 7 to North Texas Steel Co. Civil engineering work is expected to be approved Sept. 4. Austin Commercial is the construction manager at risk and SMG Worldwide will manage the facility.

The cost of construction is expected to be about $117 million and could run as high as $136 million once engineering, architecture and fees are included, Gast said. The tab will be covered by a hotel tax put in place in 2000. Irving voters in November approved an additional 2 percent tax to fund an entertainment complex just south of the convention center.

The city has signed letters of intent with Watermark Hotel Co. for a boutique hotel directly south of the convention center, and with Las Colinas Group LP, which will be responsible for developing an entertainment concert venue, retail and restaurants. Plans are expected to come before the city in 30 to 90 days, Gast said. The convention center is scheduled to open in late fall 2010, followed by the entertainment venue and the hotel.
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