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The renovation of the Convention Center will complement nearby hotel development, 'Portland's new front porch'

A new outdoor plaza and other updates are coming to the Oregon Convention Center in a project slated to begin July 2018.

"There's a real opportunity to repurpose that plaza so that it has programmable use, so we can have activities like concerts, receptions or other kinds of convention events," said Brent Shelby, senior construction project manager at Metro and the project manager for the renovation. "It's going to be a far more welcoming experience."

The plaza space is located at the corner of Northeast Holladay Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and the renovation will also add canopies to the two main entrances.

Last week, the RFP for a general contractor went out, with a closing date of June 27.SOURCE: METRO - The plaza will front toward the upcoming Hyatt Regency hotel, creating cohesive access for visitors staying there for conventions.

For convention center project, the Metro Council approved an alternative procurement method where general contractors submit proposals instead of a bidding process to provide opportunities for a variety of firms and encourage diverse partnerships on a larger scale. (It's also the process Metro used on the recent construction projects that were part of the Oregon Zoo bond program, where Shelby was also project manager.)

Specifically, Metro wants to strongly encourage partnerships between large general contractors and smaller certified firms that may not have the capacity to take on the larger project alone.

"We rarely have this kind of opportunity to really provide resources to construction trades of this scale," Shelby said. "We want to be conveners and we want other public agencies to really help support diversity in workforces."

The project will submit to a Type 3 Land Use review for the exterior improvements to the plaza, plans for which were submitted to the city for early design assistance in April.

The renovation budget is between $25-35 million, including cosmetic interior work to the finishings and lighting along with structural upgrades to restrooms and public areas.

The updates

The Oregon Convention Center was built in 1989 and opened the next year.

"In that time there has been a couple expansions," said Karol Collymore, communications and policy development manager for Metro's visitor venues. "We recognize the need to modernize with the time and also modernize to coincide with the development of the Hyatt Portland Hotel at the Convention Center as well … both projects are a great complement to one another."

Construction on the Hyatt Regency Portland is starting this summer, estimated to create 2,000 jobs. PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: FILE PHOTO - The Oregon Convention Centers outdoor plaza is slated for renovation to enhance the entryway. 

The hotel will be located directly north of the Oregon Convention Center and is anticipated to open in late 2018 with a late 2016 groundbreaking, pending city approval. It's a Metro, City of Portland, Multnomah County and Portland Development Commission partnership intended to boost jobs and tourism, leveraging future private investments.

"It's made to feel like there can be more access. It's a little broken up (right now) — some parts are stairs, some parts are ramps," Collymore said. "We want to make it flow a little better for the public so you can see this is where you come into the Convention Center and connect to the hotel entrance so folks coming out of the hotel for a conference can walk right over and know where to go."

The two-block hotel development will include 14 floors and 600 rooms with a ballroom and event spaces. The garage plans are for a 6-story, 419-space development with ground floor bike parking and a commercial area. The total cost is projected to be $228 million.

"I'm excited this is happening," Collymore said. "We want folks to know after years of talking to hotels, I know folks here are excited to have a great new hotel and have complementary design."

Besides the plaza, some interior cosmetic upgrades will go in.

"It'll be a really nice new plaza and enhanced entryway, and there will be a complete refresh of the Convention Center interior including new carpet, and a refresh of the ballrooms," Collymore said. "The carpet was originally installed with really great padding — it's pretty comfortable to stand on, put in so people could stand for awhile and not get tired."

As for the outdoor art, both the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Sculpture and the Bell of Sisterhood will remain in place during and after the remodeling, but the Friendship Bell, given to Portland as a gift from Japan, will potentially be moved to a Southeast corner of the site. The convention center is working with the Regional Arts and Culture Council to ensure art pieces throughout the grounds are not impacted negatively.

Metro said the renovation goes well with other construction nearby at the Lloyd Center, where a superblock project will soon be going up at 1400 N.E. Multnomah St. — Plans include two six-story, mixed-use buildings providing 677 market-rate apartments, 12 live-work units and more than 37,000 square feet of retail space. The buildings are organized around a diagonal pedestrian plaza extending from the southwest to the northeast corners of the site.

"Especially with the MAX coming through, folks staying downtown get off and know where the front door it," Collymore said. "And if they're staying at the hotel they'll just have to cross the street — it's nice for rainy days and beautiful for sunny days as well, and complements the renovations going on in the Lloyd District."

The completion of the center's renovation is scheduled for 2019, to coincide with the completion of the Hyatt Hotel. The Convention Center plans to remain open and operational during the renovation.

By Jules Rogers
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