Plans for an expansion of the San Diego Convention Center—years in the making—got a significant boost last week when the California Coastal Commission gave its OK for the project.
With that approval in hand, convention center President and CEO Carol Wallace has asked the city of San Diego for $4.5 million to complete detailed design plans with a groundbreaking expected sometime in late 2014 or 2015.
“Many of our clients who have been outgrowing the current facility will now be able to book well into the future,” Wallace says in a statement.
Once the estimated $520-million expansion project is done, it will a
dd 225,000 square feet of exhibit space to the existing 615,000 sq. ft. The plan includes a new 500-room hotel tower at the nearby Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel.
California Coastal Commission approval was required because the project hugs the San Diego Harbor. Every project along the California coastline must get the OK of the commission.
Earlier in the week, the coastal commission’s staff had recommended the project be rejected, noting in a report that the venue would block “one of the few windows to the water along a heavily built-up boulevard.” The commission, however, ignored that recommendation.
Although the coastal commission approval is pivotal, there is still a lawsuit in state court concerning the legality of the funding process. Nearby hoteliers voted themselves a surcharge on rooms to pay for the expansion, a mechanism that has been questioned.
That legal action has left the date of the groundbreaking in question.
, the largest annual event held in San Diego, has complained about the lack of space at the convention center for years but has extended its contract through 2016. Wallace says she is in talks with Comic-Con about extending that contract through 2017.
Venue officials say that, even if groundbreaking is delayed until 2015, it can be completed by Comic-Con’s July 2018 dates.