Austin Expanding the Convention Center

The Austin convention center does more than just hold conventions for the city. This year alone in 2020 the convention center has housed covid paitents, hurricane shelterSecond Street on the south and East Fourth Street on the north, between Trinity and San Jacinto Boulevard.

According to documentation provided by staff, “This action is the first of a two-step approval process. The exclusive negotiating agreement (ENA) will allow the city, the landowners and developers to establish more detailed specifications, including guaranteed maximum pricing for the acquisition and development of westward expansion of the convention center space. The transaction will include an estimated 750,000 square feet of convention space and related amenities.” The second step of the process outlined by staff “is anticipated for the summer of 2021, with a real estate purchase and sale agreement with accompanying documents. Once the expansion space is completed to the west, the convention center plans to work towards potential redevelopment of the current convention center space.”

Earlier in the day, two citizens told Council they were not happy about the vote. Samuel Franco complained about the process as opposed to the outcome. He later posted his comments to Facebook, writing, “I understand the real estate exception allows Council to negotiate behind closed doors; however, a procurement such as this should make the project scope, minimum specifications and contractual terms public before you execute an agreement of this magnitude. “Furthermore, there has been no competition to ensure that the fees and other payments by the city are competitive and being performed by qualified parties, which is sacred in any public project. The Council instead is trying to sole-source what eventually will be a multibillion-dollar project to a group of developers who happen to own land but have not had to meet any sort of minimum prequalification requirements.” Franco added, “This lack of transparency and total disregard for standard procurement processes for projects of this magnitude is just plain wrong and irresponsible at best.” Environmental activist Bill Bunch, speaking for himself and not for his organization, urged Council to spend city money on helping the musicians and other artists who bring tourists to the city, not to move forward with the convention center expansion. He told them via email that convention center visitors account for just 2 percent of Austin’s tourists and 3 percent of annual hotel room nights. “The $230 million or thereabouts convention center reserve fund is the only source of significant city funds that could and should be allocated, immediately, to save the Austin we all know and love,” he wrote.