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Baltimore Convention Center expansion feasibility study finally released, the loss of Otakon mentioned in Baltimore Sun article.

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The 2016 approved feasibility study of expanding the Baltimore Convention Center is finally released as a phase 1 study in three parts that can be downloaded from here, the study does state a convention center expansion is needed: https://mdstad.com/studies/baltimore-city-convention-center-renovation-expansion-study

Here's the Baltimore Sun article where Visit Baltimore's CEO mentions the loss of Otakon: http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bs-md-arena-study-20180706-story.html

City and state economic development leaders have concluded that a plan to build a replacement for Royal Farms Arena on the site of the Baltimore Convention Center is too ambitious and complicated to be realistic.

A group of officials evaluating options for convention center expansion decided that including an arena in the project is “not recommended” because of “significant operational and construction related challenges, Michael Frenz, the Maryland Stadium Authority’s executive director, told Mayor Catherine Pugh in a letter Friday.

Such a project — squeezing new convention space, an arena and a new 500-room hotel along West Pratt, South Charles and Conway streets downtown — was expected to take as long as six years to design and build, according to a report the stadium authority also released Friday.

“It is simply not feasible to include that much programming in that small footprint,” said Bill Cole, executive director of the Baltimore Development Corp.

But the stadium authority is advancing a proposal to build a second convention center hotel, in part because even without an arena in the design, convention center expansion would likely require taking over the footprint of the nearby Sheraton Inner Harbor hotel at Conway and South Charles streets.

Al Hutchinson, CEO of Visit Baltimore, said that proposal could spur growth in the city’s convention business, which has lost some major meetings because groups have outgrown the convention center and downtown hotels.

“We started to lose a percentage of our business that’s going elsewhere because they’ve outgrown our existing building,” he said. “Our building is pretty much at max capacity when it’s compared to other competitive cities.”

The recommendations come at the end of a process studying the feasibility of a convention center expansion project, and the possible inclusion of a hotel and arena. The stadium authority had commissioned an architectural and design study to evaluate the options to grow the convention center and help Baltimore compete with cities along the East Coast and across the country for tourism and convention business.

The study lays out a range of proposals, even the most conservative of which would take at least four years to complete and add hundreds of thousands of square feet of exhibition and meeting space. The most complicated plan architects and designers analyzed would include a 500-room hotel and an arena with seating for as many as 17,500 people.

In any scenario, it calls for demolition of the convention center’s aged East Building, bounded by Pratt, Sharp and Charles streets, and also suggests the convention center would need to take over the footprint of the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel at Conway and Charles streets to make room for adequate convention exhibition space.

The report calls for expanding convention center square footage from 1.2 million to 1.7 million, including an increase in exhibit space from 300,000 square feet to at least 400,000 square feet. The oldest portion of the convention center, the East Building, opened in 1979; the center expanded into its West Building between Sharp and Howard streets in 1997.

It suggests replacing the 337-room Sheraton with a 500-room hotel that would be the second one connected to the convention center. The other, a 757-room, city-owned Hilton convention center hotel, opened in 2008.

A new convention center hotel would be needed to at least replace the Sheraton, should the city look to extend a new East Building across the hotel’s footprint. But economic development leaders said they also hope the increased convention space would spur demand for additional rooms.

Baltimore has seen an exodus of larger conventions in recent years because they were, in a way, too successful for the city, Hutchinson said. That includes Otakon, a celebration of anime and other Asian pop culture that moved to Washington last year, and annual meetings of natural products vendors, athletic trainers and human geneticists, he said.

Many of those conventions had started to take up rooms well outside of downtown, but providing more space close to the convention center could help the city attract some of those bigger groups.

“Those are ideal groups based on attendance and the time of year they’re meeting,” he said. “Those are the type groups we want to continue to grow here.”

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Here's the proposed layout of the convention center expansion with a new hotel from part 1 of the study:

Level L100 illustrates the ground level of the BCC. The existing Exhibit Hall would be expanded to incorporate a contiguous 425,000 SF, adding three halls to the four halls currently in place. The Exhibit Halls are ringed with support space around their perimeter. The loading dock directly accesses the Exhibit Hall level, with oversize freight elevators servicing all the upper levels. A spiral truck ramp option is shown, with exit onto Conway Street (see Section 4: Freight Access), but any of the Conway Street freight options in Section 4 could be feasible. On Charles Street, the pre-function space is widened to allow for entry on grade and event registration.

Just adjacent is a Hotel lobby, with a drop-off near the corner of Charles and Pratt Streets. At the corner of Conway and Charles Streets, space for retail program is allocated.

Level L200 provides a grade level entrance on Pratt Street, with escalators going down to the Exhibit Hall, or up to the Flex Hall and meeting levels. The East Building contains a mechanical mezzanine above the loading area. In the truss above the Exhibit Hall, there is an opportunity for parking 580 cars. Possible entrances to the parking garage are off Sharp Street and Charles Street. Along Charles Street is the Hotel food and beverage program.

Level L300 is the primary meeting room and Flex Hall level, expanding eastward from the existing meeting rooms in the West Building. Additional meeting rooms would be added to the West Building. The generous pre-function space houses a second registration area. The north-south orientation of the 106,000 SF Flex Hall allows it to have direct access to daylight on the south wall. The back of house space provides shared service for the meeting rooms and Flex Hall. The flexible meeting rooms can be combined, with one group large enough to be a 18,000 SF Junior Ballroom. In total, the L300 level houses 112,200 SF of meeting rooms.

Level L400 houses the two Ballrooms, with meeting rooms in between. The new 60,900 SF Ballroom is located on the same level as the 37,800 SF existing grand Ballroom. The contiguous back of house space would house a shared kitchen.

Half a level above are the Ballrooms and meeting rooms for the Hotel. There is potential for operational synergy, and simultaneous use between the BCC and Hotel.

The Grand Ballroom on the West Building has been relocated to the L500 level at +122'. On the same level as the new 60,000 SF grand Ballroom in the East Building, the two Ballrooms share pre-function space overlooking Pratt Street, and a kitchen with coordinated back of house space. The Hotel Junior Ballroom and food and beverage program are located on the northeast corner of the site.

The Hotel tower stacks on top of the Hotel function podium, with the first room floor at +133' and a total height of 319 feet to the roof level. The tower totals 19 floors with 28 rooms per floor. There is ample opportunity for a Hotel roof terrace.

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As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Proposed floor plan:
Blue - exhibit space
Purple - meeting rooms
Red - Ballrooms
Pink - Parking
Green - Hotel space
Yellow -Prefunction / Lobby
Gray - Back of House / Service areas

Faded colors indicate existing rooms in the old (current) west BCC, darker colors show new rooms/spaces

Halls.png

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Well, Baltimore's current Mayor has made this statement regarding expanding the convention center, let's see if her commitment actually turns into actual action with groundbreaking of an expansion:

Baltimore Mayor Pugh said in a statement that investment in the convention center — and another aged city property, Pimlico Race Course — are “top priorities.”

“I’m committed to ensuring that these important city venues are fully able to accommodate the increased demand for high quality sporting, leisure and business experiences,” she said. “Baltimore needs to stay competitive and investing in these anchor facilities will undoubtedly prove an investment in our future.”

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Phase 2 of the BCC expansion and renovation study has been approved and is expected to begin sometime in Fall 2018: https://mdstad.com/studies/baltimore-city-convention-center-renovation-expansion-study

In July 2018, MSA's Board of Directors approved a request by the Mayor of Baltimore to further study the recommended scenario from the Phase 1 report. Phase 2 of the BCC study will outline preliminary design, cost estimating (construction and projects), and financing modeling. The Phase 2 study is expected to begin in fall 2018.

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