Citing concerns about the project's economic feasibility, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has halted a planned expansion of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC), his administration announced yesterday upon revealing Baker's appointments to the board of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA).
"We are pausing the expansion of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in order for the new members of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority to conduct a thoughtful analysis and determine how these resources can best benefit our economy, job creation, and the development of Boston's Seaport District," Baker said in a statement. "The environment has changed greatly in the five years since this proposal was first introduced, and the Seaport District has experienced an economic boom. Plunging ahead now, when the data on the expansion's feasibility is mixed, combined with the change of leadership at the MCCA, would be irresponsible given the vast amounts of taxpayer dollars necessary to not only build but operate the expanded facility in the face of pressing financial needs outside of the booming Seaport District."
The MCCA board consists of 13 members, including nine appointed by the governor and two appointed by the mayor of Boston. The large board turnover leaves the BCEC expansion in limbo -- much to the disappointment of outgoing MCCA Executive Director James Rooney.
"Obviously we have a new governor who has his own priorities and who has been met with some difficult challenges during the early days of his term. I have to respect this context," Rooney said in a statement. "This decision not only pauses the physical convention center expansion, but also pauses significant economic development, job creation, groundbreaking diversity programs, place-making initiatives in the South Boston Waterfront, and our ability to keep Boston competitive in the global meetings and conventions market … I would advise the new board and the administration to set a new direction and eliminate uncertainties as quickly as possible."
Former Gov. Deval Patrick approved the BCEC expansion last summer. Scheduled for completion in 2018, the $1 billion, 1.3 million-square-foot expansion would have added to the facility with new meeting and exhibition space, as well as a second, larger ballroom that would have allowed the venue to host multiple concurrent events.
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