New York City's Javits Center Plan Scrapped

Expansion plans for the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center are off the table. City and state officials announced in late December that skyrocketing costs were too much for stakeholders to absorb.

Earlier in the year, Patrick Foye, the downstate chairman of the Empire State Development Corp., who was appointed by current Governor Eliot Spitzer, reviewed the proposal by former Governor George Pataki and made it clear to officials and corporate stakeholders that the $1.8 billion price tag attached to the expansion plan, spanning five New York City blocks, was unrealistically low. Foye estimated then that the plan approved by the Pataki administration would run $3.1 billion and by late last month that figure had ballooned to more than $5 billion.

The original plan called for 300,000 sf of exhibition space to be added to the current 750,000 sf at Javits. It also included a significant increase in meeting rooms and ballrooms. The plan's cost was to be covered, in part, by a $1.50-per-night hotel room surcharge levied in
2005.

After Foye's review and discussions with key trade show operators, however, even the 300,000-sf increase in exhibition space was paltry in exhibitors' eyes.

Foye presented alternative options for the convention center that cost from $1.7 billion to $2.7 billion and would add more exhibition space than the original 300,000-sf plan but less meeting space. After the most recent hearing on Dec. 20, even these options are out, as they would require additional contributions from the city and state, as well as from city hotels.

The Hotel Association of New York City (HANYC), which was firmly set on the original number of additional meeting rooms for the educational sessions and events of association and corporate groups, refused to support alternatives that diminish that number while at the same time increase the $1.50-per-night lodging surcharge to $4.50 to pay for the additional show space.

Joseph Spinnato, president of the association, told the New York Times, "The association has decided that the project has become too expensive, and any further contributions from the hotel industry would, in our judgment, be counterproductive. The association would rather that the money already budgeted be used to repair and renovate the existing center."

That is the scenario that city and state officials are now pushing. Foye indicated that it would run the state about $850 million to repair the building that now suffers from a leaky roof and damaged lobby. But Foye said even that figure is in question, and he is currently trying to put together a less ambitious plan.

Ken McAvoy, senior VP of Reed Exhibitions, told a local newspaper that a repair option would keep the Javits from hosting some shows in its rotation, as they are outgrowing the space.He also voiced skepticism about HANYC's strategy to draw white-collar shows to the city through meeting space. But that debate is now moot.

Originally published January 07, 2008