The City by the Bay is more meetings friendly than ever
In San Francisco, there's a complex balance of new
and old, cutting edge and historic. Here, iconic landmarks like
the Golden Gate Bridge stand side by side with the new, like
the ultramodern DeYoung Museum at Golden Gate Park. That same
ever-evolving dynamic between old and new applies to the city's
meetings industry, too.
Take, for example, the newly renovated Moscone Center.
Following a two-year, $56-million overhaul of its North and
South buildings, the heart of San Francisco's convention
business completed its renovation this June. With the new
renovations, designers sought to "bring San Francisco inside"
through branding, graphics, and colors, as well as installing a
$4.5-million wireless system that provides high-speed Internet
to as many as 60,000 devices at one time. In total, including
the Moscone West building, the center now offers 1.2 million
square feet of function space.
"In its previous state, Moscone Center gave meeting attendees
very little sense that they were in San Francisco," explains
Dean Kelleher, chairman of the San Francisco Tourism
Improvement District, one of the organizations that funded the
renovations. "A major part of this renovation was incorporating
recognizable colors like the Golden Gate Bridge's
'international orange' and integrating the city's iconic images
into the buildings' public spaces and meeting rooms."
Other upgrades to the center include new carpeting; paint;
lighting; ceilings; restroom renovations; upgraded lobbies and
kitchens; as well as major upgrades to heating, ventilation,
and air-conditioning systems; elevators and escalators; and
telecommunications and data cabling systems.
Meeting attendees who converge on the Moscone Center will also
be able to use an innovative Google Maps feature called My
Location on their Android smartphone devices. This tool lets
users see their location within the center in detail, and
allows them to easily navigate the convention center to find
meeting rooms, food service kiosks, restrooms, and more, all
from their smartphones.
The convention center is now a U.S. Green Building Council
(USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
Gold-certified building. "Moscone Center is a vital hub for our
convention and tourism economy, and we are very proud to have
the first convention center on the West Coast to earn LEED Gold
for an existing building," says San Francisco Mayor Edwin M.
Lee. The Moscone South building opened in 1981, and the North
building opened in 1992.
"We're really excited about having this," adds John Reyes,
executive vice president and chief customer officer, convention
sales and services, for San Francisco Travel Association, the
city's official tourism and marketing organization. "It's so
timely that the Moscone Center is now LEED Gold-certified,
especially since the USGBC held its Greenbuild International
Conference & Expo at Moscone Center in November. There are
a lot of brand-new convention centers that get LEED Gold
certification, but it's rare to see this for an existing
building," Reyes adds. "This green aspect has really been
brought up to date, and we know it is something that's
important to planners."
As part of its new LEED Gold certification, Moscone Center has
reduced its water consumption and has optimized its energy
performance to exceed its former usage by 20 percent. At least
50 percent of the center's existing roof is now covered by
photovoltaic solar panels, greenscaping, or park area. The
center also has adopted sustainable practices that include
green conference attendee and exhibitor guidelines, green
purchasing, and green vendor agreements. And, in keeping with
the farm-to-table food movement that the Bay Area is credited
with starting 20 years ago - with Alice Waters' groundbreaking
restaurant Chez Panisse, in nearby Berkeley, CA - the Moscone
Center will have organic or locally produced food and
beverages, all from within a 100-mile radius of the convention
LEED Gold certification is just the beginning for Moscone
Center. In September, San Francisco Travel Association
President Joe D'Alessandro released details regarding the
mayor's 25-year master plan to eventually expand the Moscone
Center and bring more MICE business to the city.
While the center is the 25th largest convention center in the
U.S., it generates the most money per square foot, according to
the San Francisco Travel Association. Tourism officials are
eager to add more space to accommodate larger meetings and
conventions from around the world.
In total, tourism, the city's largest industry, generates more
than $8 billion annually and city officials and tourism
organizations have made it a top priority going forward. "You
get the best of the best here in terms of tourism and
hospitality," says Reyes.
The new Moscone Center expansion measures, to be initiated over
the next five years and priced at $500 million, include adding
100,000 square feet to Moscone's two subterranean exhibitor
halls, and adding another 100,000 square feet of space atop the
existing North and South buildings, to be connected with a
walkway. The newly expanded center could potentially coincide
with the proposed opening of a new waterfront arena for the
Golden State Warriors, creating even more event space. The
project also aims to make the Moscone Center more
pedestrian-friendly for attendees.
These are just a few of the new developments in store for San
Francisco, says Reyes. "There are a lot of things happening
here that say, 'you need to look at us.'"