Convention Center Expansion Gets Green Light in Detroit

Because it wants to keep the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Detroit City Council last week declined to vote against a state-brokered bill that would expand the city's convention center, paving the way for the expansion to finally move forward later this year.

Although Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm on July 2 signed legislation mandating the convention center expansion, the Detroit City Council had until Aug. 1 to reject Granholm's plan. By not voting on the resolution that would have stopped it, city officials have allowed the project to advance. Construction could begin as early as next month and is scheduled for completion by January 2011, in time for the 2011 auto show.

"Our goal was to make sure that we did not lose our trademark—the North American International Auto Show," Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano said in a statement. "This will enable us to retain about 16,000 jobs and $500 million in economic impact annually."

Citing the convention center's small size and deteriorating conditions, organizers of the auto show had threatened to move the event outside of Detroit after 2010 if the facility—the Cobo Center—wasn't improved.

As it stands, Granholm's plan calls for building a $300 million, 166,000-square-foot addition that would include 70,000 square feet of new exhibit space, as well as making a host of infrastructure upgrades—including loading dock improvements—to the existing facility.

To make room for the convention center expansion, the adjacent Cobo Arena will be demolished.