With a new convention hotel already on the horizon for Hutchinson Island, the board of the Georgia International & Maritime Trade Center Authority is ready to begin the initial phase of expanding the island’s 16-year-old trade and convention center to accommodate the larger groups that new hotel is expected to help draw.
“If you think about it, we have two major projects on a parallel course,” authority chairman Mark Smith told the board Wednesday morning, adding that he was hoping to find a $3 million appropriation in Gov. Nathan Deal’s supplemental FY18 budget to facilitate the design phase of a project to double the size of the trade center.
The budget is set to be released this week.
“We’re actually not waiting on that,” Smith said. “We have meetings scheduled later this month with our architectural team, Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates and Hansen Architects, the team that originally designed the building some 20 years ago.
“They, in turn, are setting up meetings with Atlanta-based hotel developer Songy Highroads, who has been selected to build and operate an Omni convention hotel on Hutchinson Island. Asked why the expansion design was not put out for bid, both Smith and authority counsel Tom Gray said they did not believe the authority was required under law to do so but Gray said he would double-check the law.
Building the footprint
Unlike the proposed trade center expansion, the Omni convention hotel will be built strictly with private funds.
“The course of action we’ve established with Songy is to develop some preliminary design sketches of how a new 300-room convention hotel would interact with an expanded convention center building,” Smith said.
“We want to get the architects working with the land planners and developers to try to determine exactly what the footprint will look like with the new hotel as well as with our expanded building.”
Smith said the board has been receiving recommendations from its consultants on what they think the expanded design should look like.
“One thing that has drawn our attention is the suggestion that a second ballroom needs to be larger than our current ballroom,” he said. “It makes sense. We have a number of events that occur here regularly that are about to outgrow our current ballroom.
Once we have a design for expansion, we will have to take that design to the governor’s office, as well as our local officials here, to put together a package for funding the project,” Smith said, adding that he hoped to begin construction in late 2018 or early 2019.
The Omni Hotel is expected to come online sometime in 2019 or 2020.
Room nights up
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, Fredia Brady, director of sales and marketing, reported that definite booked room nights for the current fiscal year, which began July 1, are 18,000 ahead of room nights a year ago.
In December, the trade center hosted 11 events for a total attendance of 6,802, accounting for 2,792 room nights. Direct attendee spending was $977,200, with an overall economic impact of $1.93 million.