N.Y. Gov Seeks Expansion of the Expansion

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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New York, NY – Trade show organizers who were disappointed at the scope of the ongoing expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center found an ally in New York’s new governor, who called for the project to be redesigned to add even more square footage.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s people stunned Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration at a private Manhattan meeting by proposing the center be redesigned to add another 350,000 gross square feet of exhibit space and a more-horizontal configuration.

The rationale was that Javits Center needed to be among the largest convention centers in the nation in order to remain competitive for the largest trade shows and conventions. City officials, however, warned that changes of such magnitude would add another $1 billion to the project’s current $1.8 billion price tag and would substantially lengthen the project’s time line.
The New York Times said Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff had called city officials and representatives of the hotel industry to a March 28 meeting to discuss a response to Spitzer’s bombshell.

Spitzer, who took office in January, has had no public comment to date on the project. The current expansion plan was developed under his predecessor, Gov. George Pataki and is backed by the Empire State Development Corp., a state agency.

Jonathan Tisch, chairman of NYC&Co., the city’s convention bureau, told The Times the merits of a larger expansion were not at issue but finding the means of paying for it in one of the world’s priciest real estate markets would be a definite hurdle.

Organizers See Marshalling Mess

Initial construction began last fall on the expansion of the Javits Center from its current 700,000 gross square feet of exhibit space to 1.1 million square feet. The project also includes additional meeting and ballroom space and a unique multi-story truck marshaling facility.

Critics in the trade show industry see the marshaling plan as worrisome, particularly with plans to screen trucks for hidden bombs being included in the project. Organizers and contractors foresee the handling of large trucks in such a vertical fashion as stretching out the move-in and move-out process, all with the unions’ meter running.

Details of how the Spitzer proposal would handle trucks were not immediately known. A more-horizontal layout would presumably allow more loading docks and an all-around faster turnaround.

Customers Would Bear Higher Costs of a Vertical Expansion

Show managers involved in events at Javits Center had no immediate comment on Spitzer’s actions. Executives at some of the larger organizing companies have warned in the past that the current expansion plan was too small and that their input had been largely ignored by the designers. Their contention has been that a horizontal expansion will make Javits Center more efficient and cost effective while a more-vertical floor plan would reduce efficiency and increase the cost to their customers.

The cost of staging trade shows at Javits Center was among the reasons cited by the Toy Industry Association when it announced March 6 that it was moving its Oct. 9-12 2007 Fall Toy Show to Dallas. TIA President Carter Keithly said, “This is a carefully considered decision based purely upon what will provide the most convenient and cost-effective way for major toy buyers and vendors to come together to do business efficiently.”

On the other hand, NYC&Co. announced late last year that nine events had booked the expanded Javits Center — even before the project had been approved.

Reach Jim Hamilton, director of sales and marketing at Javits Center, at (212) 216-2188 or jhamilton@javitscenter.com