Published in the Times Union
Center Now a $300M Project
Albany convention facility will cost $100 million more than originally
predicted, which mayor and authority director say is an unsurprising
By TIM O'BRIEN, Staff writer
First published: Monday, June 25, 2007
ALBANY -- An Albany convention center will cost $100 million more
than originally expected, said George Leveille, director of the Albany
Convention Center Authority.
Costs have risen at least 45 percent since the original $200 million
estimate, he said.
"In my opinion, this is a $300 million project," he said. "There
has been an unusually high increase in construction costs since 2002.
There is nothing we can do about that. That's the reality."
Plans for the center, to be built on Hudson Avenue between Liberty
and South Pearl streets, call for two hotels. One would be a full-service
hotel with 250 to 300 rooms, the other a limited-service hotel with
100 to 150 rooms.
The center would include a ballroom of 10,000 square feet next to
a 25,000-square-foot room that could be reconfigured for gatherings
of different sizes. One proposal calls for a pedestrian bridge to
connect to the county-owned Times Union Center, enabling some exhibitors
to use that additional space.
Albany leaders are counting on the center to draw 182,000 visitors
Mayor Jerry Jennings said the cost increases should not be a surprise.
He pointed to an estimated doubling of the cost of expanding New
York City's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, to $4 billion.
"You have to have a first-class facility. I'll have to have
discussions with the governor. He understands the importance of the
center," he said. "We're on course for it to happen, and
I don't think anyone should be alarmed by the price."
Assemblyman Jack McEneny, D-Albany, said either more money will
have to be obtained or the plans will have to be scaled back.
"It's a problem, and we have to wrestle with it," said
McEneny, who also sits on the authority board. "Primarily because
of the Iraqi war, construction costs on projects all over the state
of New York have skyrocketed."
The project has $75 million in hand from the state, and another
$150 million is anticipated through a percentage of the hotel tax.
The convention authority also will be able to secure bonds using
some $270 million in state aid the city of Albany is to receive in
lieu of property tax payments.
The convention authority meets at 8:30 a.m. Friday in the first
floor of the Albany County office building.
The original $200 million estimate for the project predates the
forming of the convention authority, Leveille said. Duluth, Ga.-based
Strategic Advisory Group conducted the original study in 2001 when
Jennings was building support for the project.
"Whatever was done before we were created is not our responsibility," Leveille
The authority is about to seek requests for proposals for a design
team and a construction manager for the project, with those contracts
likely to be awarded next month. Once that is done, he said, specific
plans, cost estimates and a financing plan will be developed.
He expects a detailed cost breakdown will be put together this September.
The aim is for construction to begin next year, with completion of
the center in 2010.
Next week, the authority's board will vote on which alternative
they believe would draw the most visitors.
After a community workshop in April, the authority said the most
popular option was one that would connect the convention center to
the Times Union Center. That would require a pedestrian bridge not
in the original cost estimate, and the earlier plan did not include
removing a parking garage.
"You have to build the right product for the market," Leveille
said. "If you build the wrong product, it's probably not going
Tim O'Brien can be reached at 454-5092 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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