Global Center renovations under tight deadlines, experts say Cuyahoga County must act quickly

CLEVELAND, Ohio — If the Global Center for Health Innovation’s proposed $46 million upgrade is to be completed in time to host the so-called Super Bowl of convention events, then decisions must begin to be made as soon as possible. June, and it looks like everything is on pace to make sure that happens.

Now is the time to act, Ellis Katz of Project Management Consultants told the 9-member board of the Cuyahoga County Convention Facilities Development Corporation (CCCFDC), which oversees the taxpayer-funded center and had previously voted to proceed with renovations, at a board meeting. at the establishment on Friday.

He and PMC Director Jeff Appelbaum, who is the CCCFDC’s attorney, outlined a schedule for the project that includes selecting a design-builder by June, finalizing the designs and securing a price by the end of the year and then the start of construction in 2023. The renovations are then expected to take 18 months, which would leave about five weeks of preparation before welcoming the American Society of Association Executives, the largest gathering of national convention and meeting planners.

Members were reviewing proposals from design builder applicants later on Friday.

Although the board has already voted in favor of the work and has commitments covering at least $10 million of the cost – $5 million from CCCFDC reserves and $5 million pledged by the county using American Rescue Plan Act – Always requires county board approval to move forward. Because most of the funding, about $34 million, is expected to come from county bonds.

The board has yet to make a formal request for this funding, but David Gilbert, president and CEO of Destination Cleveland and new CCCFDC board member, said he will update board members on benefits of the project during a presentation on May 10.

The convention center is an economic engine in the community, Gilbert told board members, noting that attendees fill hotel rooms and spend money at restaurants, businesses and tourist attractions in the region. This increases the amount of taxes paid into county and city coffers. But none of that happens if Cleveland can’t provide the kind of facilities the industry demands, namely more flexible meeting space, he said.

“We believe the facts will show that the investment in this project is the highest and best use for the future of this building and would absolutely provide a return on investment, not just for the community but for the county,” Gilbert said.

Rob Svedberg, with architectural design firm TVSdesign, showed early designs of what it would take to convert the failed Medical Mart from an empty Global Center to the lucrative, unified campus of Cleveland’s Huntington Convention Center.

It includes expanding the Junior Ballroom from 11,000 square feet to 22,000 square feet, divisible into six smaller meeting rooms, which would allow the center to host multiple events simultaneously. The construction would also create an outdoor venue above, which Svedberg says “is selling very, very well.”

The project also adds additional meeting space on floors 2, 3 and 4, as well as hospitality suites to help users relax or provide an intimate space to discuss deals. These changes would also require the addition of escalators to more easily move people between floors and the strengthening of restrooms and other facilities to accommodate higher occupancy.

Majeed Makhlouf, vice-chairman of the CCCFDC board, said they had looked at different models to achieve this goal and potentially “shrink” the project or complete it in phases, but all avenues carried higher costs. . The idea can’t succeed without each of the proposed pieces being in place simultaneously, “otherwise we’re spending money but we’re not getting a return on investment,” he said.

When officials voted to build the Medical Mart, they were trusting an untested theory that it would work, Makhlouf said. But what the council is now proposing, he said, is far from experimental.

“It’s a model that we know works,” Makhlouf said. “We’re not saying ‘trust us’ or ‘we’re testing the market for something’. We’re saying real, real market experience shows it’s going to work that way.

Although the pandemic has had a devastating effect on the industry over the past two years, convention center general manager Ron King said business is starting to pick up. The center hosted 21 events with 53,000 attendees in the first quarter of 2022, and has several more on the books, including Blacks in Government National Training Institute, National Association for the Education of Young Children, National Retail Federation and the FBI Academy.

As he spoke, the Fan Expo, formerly Comic Con, was underway.

He also said the facility ran $624,000 under budget in the first three months of the year. This halved expected losses of more than $1 million, largely due to county payments for hosting the Court of Common Pleas jury trials on the fourth floor.

The board also took a number of other actions at the meeting:

  • He approved the appointment of Jeff Epstein by County Council Chairman Pernel Jones for an unexpired term ending in April 2024.
  • He voted to explore the possibility of amending his operating agreement to allow the facility to host a medical marijuana lounge in the future, if permitted by city ordinance. The agreement currently prohibits drug paraphernalia.
  • It approved the payment of $127,000 to ASM Global, which operates the facility, as part of an incentive fee agreement. The business is eligible to receive up to $225,000 per year, if it meets certain occupancy and economic criteria. Due to the pandemic, ASM has failed in several areas this year, prompting board members to offer to offer a one-time bonus to make up the difference. This idea is under consideration.

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