Entertainment District Delay Costs Birmingham Major 2010 Convention

Citing the city's lack of a major downtown entertainment district, Nashville-based Gideons International has pulled its 2010 convention, a 10-day meeting that was expected to generate 10,000 room nights for local hotels, out of Birmingham, reports local newspaper The Birmingham News.

Gideons, which is known for donating the Bibles commonly found in hotel rooms, booked its 2010 meeting in 2006 on the condition that a two-block entertainment district adjoining the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex—known as The Forge—would be complete. The $40 million project has been stalled for more than two years, however, while its developer, Memphis-based Performa Entertainment Real Estate, looks for financing.

"It's difficult for anyone to get financing in this environment, especially a project of this magnitude in downtown Birmingham," Performa CEO John Elkington told The Birmingham News.

According to the paper, Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford has given Performa until May 3 to secure financing and has already engaged another developer—Baltimore-based Cordish Cos.—in conversations about the project.

"We cannot afford to wait much longer," Langford told The Birmingham News. "This project is too important for Birmingham."

Had it chosen to stay in Birmingham, Gideons International—which reportedly invoked an escape clause in its contract that was tied to the proposed entertainment district—would have brought the city its largest convention since 1996.