Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Crazy s*** in NYC: Convention Center edition

This artist's rendering provided by the Genting Group shows a $4-billion convention center and casino planned for the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.
This artist's rendering provided by the Genting Group shows a $4-billion convention center and casino planned for the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.

While generally, like stadiums and arenas for sports teams, convention centers are usually boondoggles, as outlined in the Brookings report "Space Available: The Realities of Convention Centers as Economic Development Strategy" by Professor Heywood Sanders, it's a different situation in tourist and convention destinations like New York City, where the revenue stream from such activities is considerable.

Gov. Cuomo is pushing hard to relocate NYC's main convention site, the Javits Center, to the Aqueduct Racetrack site in Queens. See "Cuomo's $4 billion convention center backed by Bloomberg, and more importantly, a gambling enterprise" from Capital New York, and these stories from the New York Times, "Cuomo Portrays Queens Convention Center Plan as Risk-Free," "Replace Javits With Center in Queens? Too Far From Sights, Convention Experts Say," and "On Trip to Queens, Road-Testing a Plan for Holding Conventions in Queens," and "Survey finds 57% oppose Aqueduct center" from Newsday.

The site is close to JFK Airport, but far from Manhattan--an hour by subway.

But maybe Governor Andrew Cuomo is the new Robert Moses. Moses refused to help build a new stadium in Brooklyn for the Dodgers, instead he wanted a stadium in Queens, as part of the redevelopment of the World's Fair site. So the Dodgers left for Los Angeles, and eventually Moses built his stadium in Queens and got an expansion team, the New York Mets, for the stadium.

Obviously, what is driving this proposal are casino interests, although probably moving the convention center out of Manhattan may be seen as an opportunity to change the labor arrangements, which are onerous.

Doing exhibiting sucks from the standpoint of exhibitors because most convention centers and hotels in big cities are union shops, and everything has to be moved in, and depending on the size of the booth, be set up and taken down by union workers, at union wage rates and minimums. It's particularly expensive in NYC.

The other problem with moving a convention center so centrally located is that it induces trips and reduces the value of existing hotel properties proximate to the current site.

Because of the impact on existing hotels--not the increase in the number of trips--it's unlikely at the end of the day that the convention center will move out of Manhattan, despite Gov. Cuomo's best Robert Moses imitation.

For similar reasons, the new convention center in DC was located in midtown DC, not far from the previous location and close to all the major hotel properties in the core of the city, rather than being moved to an alternative location near New York and Florida Avenues one mile away from the current site, but 3.5 miles away from the Omni Shoreham and Marriott-owned Wardman Park Hotels in Woodley Park and not quite 3.0 miles away from the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue.

The hotel and restaurant interests centered in Downtown and north and west of the central business district refused to allow a relocation that would lead to a significant devaluation of their present location value.

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