Planners envisioning a multimillion-dollar makeover to expand the Broward Convention Center to create an iconic waterfront hotspot on the 40-acre site will present four concepts to residents at a public meeting Tuesday.
It will be a chance for public input before commissioners review the master plan and prepare to select a team for the far-reaching redevelopment project that could add nearly 1.7 million square feet of hotel, retail and meeting space to the massive site on the northern end of Port Everglades. The goal is to transform the underutilized asset into an economic jewel that takes advantage of waterfront access and creates new revenue streams.
The county would build a 750-room hotel covering 750,000 square feet, addressing a competitive disadvantage for a convention center that officials say loses millions each year to competitors with onsite accommodations.
It would also add 224,000 square feet of meeting and ballroom space to the convention center, with plans to add exhibit space in a few years. A third component would create 100,000 square feet of retail to help transform the center into a recreation, business and shopping hub with pedestrian appeal, waterfront access and open spaces.
“We need to give it a sense of place beyond the typical hotel-slash-convention center and make it active on a year-round basis,” said Carlos Puentes, deputy director of the Broward Convention Center.
A master plan study now in the works and due before the County Commission by mid-June is considering several key design considerations for maximum water views and to benefit from Fort Lauderdale’s position as a vacation destination that attracts convention groups looking to merge business and pleasure. Various versions of the plans also focus on the best use of parking spots and open spaces, with one plan adding up to 4,600 parking slots.
“Right now our biggest challenge is how to work around the existing structures and make it a signature design for our visitors to come and enjoy,” said Yvonne Garth, president and CEO of Garth Solutions Inc., a consultant handling public outreach.
“Our consultants are telling us and the industry is telling us that the industry is changing, and it’s changing more toward banquet and meeting space as opposed to exhibit space,” Puentes said.
The center needs about twice as much ballroom space—a 70,000-square-foot room instead of its current 35,000 square feet—and its 5,000-square-foot meeting rooms are too small to accommodate requests for 45,000 square feet.
It lost a major client when after 15 years of doing business with the county, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology outgrew the Broward Convention Center and moved its annual conference to Seattle. The 10,000 delegates who attended that five-day conference each spent an average of $300 per day, which means the lost conference cost the county about $15 million.
“The reason the county wants to move forward with this project is because the county is losing revenue,” Garth said.
Today’s public session is set for 6 p.m. in Rooms 220 and 221 at the convention center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.