In May, the City Council approved a recommendation from the MAPS 3 convention center subcommittee to put the convention center at the former Bob Howard dealership just west of the Chesapeake Energy Arena. The proposed location is bordered on the north by Myriad Gardens and the future boulevard on the south.
No designs have been finalized on the convention center, but early plans give an option of putting the building partially underground, and some of the plans center around having 360 degrees of windows on the structure with no traditional back or front entrance.
At the park subcommittee meeting, committee members Anthony McDermid (pictured), an architect, and Michelle Martin-Coyne, the wife of The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne, expressed concern that having the convention center at that location was not in line with Core to Shore walkability plans.
“It’s like a wall, regardless of what it is. These aren’t things we use every day; we’re trying to make a community down there where people can have a park,” Martin-Coyne said. “I thought the whole idea of the Core to Shore program was to make a pedestrian-friendly living area downtown.”
MAPS Program Director Eric Wenger said that having the site would give the city control over the building’s design, an opportunity that would be lost if it were left to private development.
Subcommittee chair and MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board Member Kimberly Lowe said the MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board, to which the subcommittees report, was aware of the concern, but that the best move would be to get control of the property so something unplanned doesn’t occur in that location.
“Even the advisory board was concerned how this would affect the park,” Lowe said. “If we build things in areas where development can happen where we don’t ultimately have control, then what justice have we done in building great things that don’t impact each other?” However, McDermid said he wanted his concerns relayed to the convention center subcommittee.
“Our charge is to look out for … the park, and sort of try to identify any threats the convention center poses to the use of that park, to the enjoyment of that park. The diagrams I see give me great cause for concern,” said McDermid. “I am extremely concerned this site poses as an obstacle to the park, and I want that to be given consideration in the evolution of the design.”
Our charge is to identify any threats the convention center poses to the use of that park.
The $30 million in question was originally tucked into the fund for the MAPS 3 convention center, since the 2008 Core to Shore plan suggested the convention center be located on the current substation site. However, after the car dealership site was selected, Wenger said the convention center project was slated for $250 million, and the $30 million was still set aside to move the substation.
When each of the projects’ budgets was presented by consultant Architectural Design Group, the convention center was set at $250 million with $30 million in a separate contingency fund. The convention center subcommittee disagreed with that number, and sent a recommendation to the Citizens Advisory Board that their budget be $280 million, a recommendation the board approved.
The matter was sent to the City Council, which was to consider the item after press time at its Aug. 30 meeting.
The council was given three options for the convention center budget: $250 million as first recommended by ADG, $280 million as recommended by the Citizens Advisory Board, or a hybrid, with the convention center budget at $265 million and remaining $15 million added to the park budget.
Meanwhile, a draft timeline on the MAPS 3 modern streetcar was presented to the project’s oversight subcommittee at its Aug. 24 meeting.
The draft plan shows that subsurface utility investigation to lay the track will begin around the start of 2012. Phase one construction bids should start going out in the second quarter of 2014, with construction beginning in the third quarter. Procurement of rail cars should begin in the last half of 2014 and wrap up in late 2016.
The draft shows that the second phase planning should begin in late 2017, and construction on the final phase would end in the first half of 2021.
Jeff Bezdek, subcommittee member, said he was still upset that the second phase of the transit system was delayed in order to move up the convention center’s completion. He also expressed concern about how the delay between phases would affect the relationship between the city, contractors and vendors.
Mike Mize with ADG said the first phase would likely be about 4 miles worth of rail, but other questions, such as where the maintenance facility for the cars would be located, are still unanswered.
Photo by Mark Hancock