Convention Center board approves $2.2 million to study possible expansion

Convention Center board approves $2.2 million to study possible expansion

via Jon Chesto of the Boston Globe

Plans to expand the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center have been on hold for three years. But an expansion of some type could be on the way now that the convention center’s overseers have committed up to $2.2 million to study the possibility.

On Thursday, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority approved a contract valued at up to $2.2 million for a team led by Kansas City, Mo.-based architectural firm Populous to craft a campus master plan and to study the feasibility of future expansion options.

Local partners on the job will include CBT (architecture), Goulston & Storrs (legal), and Howard Stein Hudson (transportation engineering).

Their main goal: to figure out the best way for the MCCA to use 30 undeveloped acres behind the sprawling South Boston complex, in what has become one of the country’s hottest urban real estate markets. It’s unlikely that the Populous team will recommend an approach that’s as ambitious as the $1 billion project that Governor Charlie Baker put on hold in 2015.

There were concerns that one option for the undeveloped land — much of it obtained through eminent domain in the 1990s for the original convention center construction — might be to sell it to developers for residential or office projects. But David Gibbons, the authority’s executive director, says the study’s scope will be limited to convention-related uses, which could include hotel rooms but not apartment towers or shopping centers.

Hopes for an expansion were lifted last year when Omni agreed to build a 1,054-room hotel across the street.

Gibbons said it’s possible — but unlikely — that the Populous team will conclude that there’s not enough demand for an expansion. Populous is expected to complete its report in early 2019.

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