Convention Center: Hopes and Dreams

Downtown construction activity, including hotel projects, major renovations, office projects, streetscape improvements, etc.
Hello everyone, I was thinking today when walking around downtown, about what the Convention Center could be if it was renovated and made better. Some ideas I have that would fall under the category of "hopes" are as follows...
1. The Dome is Demolished
2. The Large lot there becomes a Convention center Expansion
3. The Vacant Lot along Convention Plaza becomes a hotel of some kind (preferably a Marriott Marquis)
4. The Bottle District area can benefit from this too. Someone on the MLS2STL Forum page thought that a stadium in the Bottle District would be great. With that being a hope, it would work here by being a great replacement for the Dome.
5. (Crazy Hope)- The Entrance on Washington avenue is replaced with a new, modern entrance with a place for retail on either side of the doors into the Convention center. The new Entrance is pushed up to the street (but with enough room for a wide sidewalk).

And now time for the "Dream" part...
1. Streets are connected to their Northern Counterparts VIA underground roadway tunnel

But obviously, these are my hopes and dreams. What are yours?
chriss752 wrote:Hello everyone, I was thinking today when walking around downtown, about what the Convention Center could be if it was renovated and made better. Some ideas I have that would fall under the category of "hopes" are as follows...
1. The Dome is Demolished
2. The Large lot there becomes a Convention center Expansion
3. The Vacant Lot along Convention Plaza becomes a hotel of some kind (preferably a Marriott Marquis)
4. The Bottle District area can benefit from this too. Someone on the MLS2STL Forum page thought that a stadium in the Bottle District would be great. With that being a hope, it would work here by being a great replacement for the Dome.
5. (Crazy Hope)- The Entrance on Washington avenue is replaced with a new, modern entrance with a place for retail on either side of the doors into the Convention center. The new Entrance is pushed up to the street (but with enough room for a wide sidewalk).

And now time for the "Dream" part...
1. Streets are connected to their Northern Counterparts VIA underground roadway tunnel

But obviously, these are my hopes and dreams. What are yours?
I actually really like the current facade of America's Center. I think it's a very timeless building on the outside. Personally, I'd like to see the complete demolition of the interior and rebuilding it. I also would like to see some type of structural renovation to the Dome. It's a very hulking structure that I do believe benefits our facilities, yet not in its current format. I still think the Bottle District site is a big asset to St. Louis. It's a huge blank canvas. If I was in the power seats, I would probably issue an RFP for the site, just to see what interest there is for the site. Due to the St. Louis Office space shortage (yes, in fact there is a regional shortage of office space), I think there could be new construction downtown in the future.


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^ I'm at a loss why at a minimum CVC is not following through with demo of the structured parking garage tucked away in back of entrance and full steam ahead with much needed ballroom space expansion. That would be a big plus at the moment. Can't make up my mind if it is the fact that parking garage is private and or the County won't play ball.

Have to agree on dome. A commitment to upgrade for more friendly convention space confines would be a good short term solution. I just don't see County making the commitment for dome demo & full on new convention facilities until they get new hockey/blues practice facility & metrolink expansion projects (big dollars being spent in county before next big city project moves forward)

I put office space shortage in it sounds good for a real estate broker report column and botteworks site development in not a chance category. You got Centene/Clayco about to add extra space on top of Centene might actually need and a ready made skyscraper downtown about to go empty. As far as new Class A, BPV 150,000 sqft that can easily be scaled up is shovel ready with all the incentives you can possibly get and Boulevards II is looking off adding another 100,000 sq feet of office space.. If that is not enough, Koman sitting on prime downtown location with shelf ready plan (Cupples X) and owns property within CORTEX footprint if Wexford can't follow through. Finally, Clayton CBD a proposed office tower connected to Apex Oil would go up in a heartbeat if parking can be agreed upon. Just to get to my point, Foundry has some office space in the phase I mix, Armory project adding space and don't forget CORTEX East 15 story rendering & the fact that Lawrence Group/Bull Moose wants to follow through with phase II they can add space in midtown as well.

Now add the multiple projects that did and would pop up in West County as soon as someone expresses interest to somewhere other then downtown or even Clayton CBD such as RGA, Bunge & now Phfizer

Will get off my cynical rant about office space but it is not a lack of space or willingness to build. It is about demand and where the tenants want to be
Demolishing the Dome itself is a terrible idea. IMO. Without the Dome, St. Louis would lose the Bands of America St. Louis Super Regional Championship, which is a MAJOR draw every October. Anything else that explicitly needs the Dome for an event would also be SOL.

Will agree that they need to do whatever they can to demolish that godawful parking garage.
My hope is that CVB doesn't bleed us dry with expansion plans and my vision is that downtown gets to a point where it doesn't have to rely on visitors to reach any semblance of vitality.
dredger wrote:
Sat Aug 05, 2017 12:37 am
^ I'm at a loss why at a minimum CVC is not following through with demo of the structured parking garage tucked away in back of entrance and full steam ahead with much needed ballroom space expansion. That would be a big plus at the moment. Can't make up my mind if it is the fact that parking garage is private and or the County won't play ball.
Any reasonable upgrade like that will make it harder to get big bucks.later if this has to go to taxpayers like it seems they want to do so it makes sense for them to hold off.
Trololzilla wrote:
Sat Aug 05, 2017 6:17 am
Demolishing the Dome itself is a terrible idea. IMO. Without the Dome, St. Louis would lose the Bands of America St. Louis Super Regional Championship, which is a MAJOR draw every October. Anything else that explicitly needs the Dome for an event would also be SOL.
I didn't articulate myself well but agree that dome demo in itself is not a good idea but it could definitely use some tender loving upgrades.
STLrainbow wrote:
dredger wrote:
Sat Aug 05, 2017 12:37 am
^ I'm at a loss why at a minimum CVC is not following through with demo of the structured parking garage tucked away in back of entrance and full steam ahead with much needed ballroom space expansion. That would be a big plus at the moment. Can't make up my mind if it is the fact that parking garage is private and or the County won't play ball.
Any reasonable upgrade like that will make it harder to get big bucks.later if this has to go to taxpayers like it seems they want to do so it makes sense for them to hold off.
.

Politics is failing convention business for the long term IMO. I can certainly agree how sport stadiums have played out for the region to date with county not going in on RAMS hail mary, voters not willing to float a soccer stadium and modest scottrade upgrades coming from existing rev and tickets sales taxes but shame city/county can't get behind a game plan sooner than later for convention center upgrades
From my understanding the garage is privately owned and the owner would ask an absurd amount for the land. But yes, ideally, the garage and theater would be demo'd and the three corners surrounding 7th and Convention Plaza would all be rebuilt, including a new entrance to the dome and expanding onto the surface lot behind the Laurel. With the rate of structural deficiencies in the downtown garages these days, hopefully that garage would lose some of it's value in the coming years and demo might be possible.
As for the Dome reconstruction, we need to keep an eye on the Kemper Arena rebuild in KC. They're planning on splitting it into multiple floors. I hope something similar would be possible for the dome.
I have always loved the Washington Ave facade. Seeing connections between other convention centers and their respective downtowns has only solidified this. Our main entrance puts visitors much closer to bars, restaurant, and hotels than most convention centers. As for introducing retail into this facade, it's entirely possible and even well designed for this as is. I've thought about this before, not an irrational desire.

By the way, the America's Center floor plans can be seen here if anyone is unfamiliar with the internal layout: http://explorestlouis.com/wp-content/up ... -13-16.pdf
aprice wrote:
Mon Aug 07, 2017 8:58 am
From my understanding the garage is privately owned and the owner would ask an absurd amount for the land. But yes, ideally, the garage and theater would be demo'd and the three corners surrounding 7th and Convention Plaza would all be rebuilt, including a new entrance to the dome and expanding onto the surface lot behind the Laurel. With the rate of structural deficiencies in the downtown garages these days, hopefully that garage would lose some of it's value in the coming years and demo might be possible.

By the way, the America's Center floor plans can be seen here if anyone is unfamiliar with the internal layout: http://explorestlouis.com/wp-content/up ... -13-16.pdf
Thanks,

I assume that CVC has asked the how much do you want question? to the garage owner, assume a few times over the years. Would be curious on the response if it were ever to be shared.

The other thing to note is how much property has been secured for public domain through out the city via eminent domain as such? NGA being the latest or even the developer seeking a gas station in the loop. My point is if their is a will their is a way for better or worse.
^fwiw it looks like the garage is owned by a group out of NYC and the city appraisal is $3.5M with a property tax bill of about $140,000.
aprice wrote:
Mon Aug 07, 2017 8:58 am
From my understanding the garage is privately owned and the owner would ask an absurd amount for the land. But yes, ideally, the garage and theater would be demo'd and the three corners surrounding 7th and Convention Plaza would all be rebuilt, including a new entrance to the dome and expanding onto the surface lot behind the Laurel. With the rate of structural deficiencies in the downtown garages these days, hopefully that garage would lose some of it's value in the coming years and demo might be possible.
As for the Dome reconstruction, we need to keep an eye on the Kemper Arena rebuild in KC. They're planning on splitting it into multiple floors. I hope something similar would be possible for the dome.
I have always loved the Washington Ave facade. Seeing connections between other convention centers and their respective downtowns has only solidified this. Our main entrance puts visitors much closer to bars, restaurant, and hotels than most convention centers. As for introducing retail into this facade, it's entirely possible and even well designed for this as is. I've thought about this before, not an irrational desire.

By the way, the America's Center floor plans can be seen here if anyone is unfamiliar with the internal layout: http://explorestlouis.com/wp-content/up ... -13-16.pdf
Why do you want to get rid of the theatre? Looking at the tech specs it seems like a nice enough, if smallish venue. And it's probably good for the convention center to have at least one real auditorium. There are some oddities, but it doesn't look like anything that would interfere with meeting grade stuff. (And even live theatre could work around . . . most of it.)

I suppose I could see the logic in replacing it and the garage with a new venue and ballrooms, but is that the most pressing need, and is there a cheaper way to build ballroom space? That's . . . a very big budget project, since it would be essentially a large construction project sandwiched into a VERY small space.

Also, dividing the dome into multiple floors would put something of a damper on the usefulness of the space as a large concert venue. Not necessarily terminal, but significant. My recollection is that the place is tall enough you might be able to get away with it and still have a useful arena with more than eighty usable feet of free space beneath whatever you cap it with. But again, that would be an expensive project that would probably entail closing the dome for the duration. And it would limit what you could fly in there at least a little.

On the other hand, if what you really want to do is improve communication between the dome and the old Cervantes side and add ballrooms you might do just as well by moving the offices and reconfiguring the annex, courtyard, and central meeting rooms. With the football team gone there's got to be plenty of office space around the dome where you could move your administrative staff. And you could probably create at least some meeting space in some of that, allowing you to turn current meeting space into expanded communications between dome and convention center. Might be a good sight cheaper than tearing down the garage and theatre and building a new building inside the footprint of the old.

Just spitballing, mind. And it's been a long long time since I've worked a show in that space. It's not the venue with which I'm most intimately familiar, to say the least. And I wasn't even aware there was an auditorium in there. Completely missed that. (I've only ever worked in the dome side.)
symphonicpoet wrote:
Tue Aug 08, 2017 1:52 am

Why do you want to get rid of the theatre?
Just to create more seamless Exhibition Hall space. At least I'm assuming that's what's most needed. If they just need more ballrooms and meeting rooms, for god's sake, just build in the 3 surface lots between Lucas and Convention Plaza to the east and west and connect the buildings with sky bridges.

As for building floors in the Dome, I'm neutral on it, it would be a less attractive venue for the Beyonce concerts but it would be better for the conventions. Concerts bring a lot of publicity but conventions fill hotel rooms for 4-5 days, not 1. I just think it's a better option than building Exhibition Hall space north of the dome (which has been an official preferred option in the past).

Also, here's some of our competition:
Indy: https://www.icclos.com/pdf/ICCLOSMap100711.pdf
Total Exhibition Hall: 510k s.f. (excluding Lucas Oil)

Nashville: http://www.nwfa.org/MCC_Floor_Plan_Maps.pdf
Total Exhibition Hall: 353k s.f.
The key to Nashville's Music City Center is that it's brand new. Do some google image searches of the exterior and the top floor ballroom.

KC: https://issuu.com/kccva/docs/conventioncenter_bookfinal
Total Exhibition Space: 389k s.f.

St. Louis Total Exhibition Hall space: 340k s.f. (excluding The Dome)

ImageScreen Shot 2017-08-08 at 8.43.16 AM by Alex Price, on Flickr
I would love to see the seats removed and the dome floored off at each individual level. Each individual level would then have its own restroom facilities/concessions etc. There is already escalator/elevator service to all the levels so that infrastructure is already in place. 4 individual levels would provide an enormous amount of event space to hold MANY different events at the same time. Just my 2 cents....
You lose the ability to host major concerts, sporting events, etc... and no, Scotttrade Center is not an option for some of these mega events either.
ntbpo wrote:
Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:05 am
I would love to see the seats removed and the dome floored off at each individual level. Each individual level would then have its own restroom facilities/concessions etc. There is already escalator/elevator service to all the levels so that infrastructure is already in place. 4 individual levels would provide an enormous amount of event space to hold MANY different events at the same time. Just my 2 cents....
Maybe we should go all Memphis on the dome and turn it into a Bass Pro Shop...

http://www.big-cypress.com/?gclid=Cj0KC ... JYEALw_wcB

Johnny Morris has the cash.
Come on, guys; you can't seriously want to get rid of the dome, do you? Until a new one is built, that's a major asset; and it's the only one in the area.
framer wrote:
Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:47 am
Come on, guys; you can't seriously want to get rid of the dome, do you? Until a new one is built, that's a major asset; and it's the only one in the area.
Again, I'm neutral on it. I'm just bringing it up because the idea has been floated in the past. And, like the Kemper Arena plan, it wouldn't completely eliminate its role as an arena. Would a Beyonce or Gun N' Roses concert still be possible? I don't know. An Herbalife gathering? Yes.
I would just like to avoid further northern expansion. It's damaging for the future of the Columbus Sq neighborhood and I think it would be an inefficient overall layout. The only exception being Ballroom space with well designed street level activity such as KC's newest ballroom.
aprice wrote:
Tue Aug 08, 2017 8:57 am
symphonicpoet wrote:
Tue Aug 08, 2017 1:52 am

Why do you want to get rid of the theatre?
Just to create more seamless Exhibition Hall space. At least I'm assuming that's what's most needed. If they just need more ballrooms and meeting rooms, for god's sake, just build in the 3 surface lots between Lucas and Convention Plaza to the east and west and connect the buildings with sky bridges.

As for building floors in the Dome, I'm neutral on it, it would be a less attractive venue for the Beyonce concerts but it would be better for the conventions. Concerts bring a lot of publicity but conventions fill hotel rooms for 4-5 days, not 1. I just think it's a better option than building Exhibition Hall space north of the dome (which has been an official preferred option in the past).

Also, here's some of our competition:
Indy: https://www.icclos.com/pdf/ICCLOSMap100711.pdf
Total Exhibition Hall: 510k s.f. (excluding Lucas Oil)

Nashville: http://www.nwfa.org/MCC_Floor_Plan_Maps.pdf
Total Exhibition Hall: 353k s.f.
The key to Nashville's Music City Center is that it's brand new. Do some google image searches of the exterior and the top floor ballroom.

KC: https://issuu.com/kccva/docs/conventioncenter_bookfinal
Total Exhibition Space: 389k s.f.

St. Louis Total Exhibition Hall space: 340k s.f. (excluding The Dome)

ImageScreen Shot 2017-08-08 at 8.43.16 AM by Alex Price, on Flickr
I know the ballroom is an issue. I know making things flow better is an issue. Getting rid of the parking garage and theatre could do both, but is there another way? How does that other way compare? What's the benefit and what's the cost?

Subdividing the dome seems to me to be a separate question, as I don't really see how it directly improves communication. In the end the biggest gain from that looks like more square feet to me. But not without cost. So how much do we really need that extra floor space? And is it worth the cost?

Let's start with the garage. Some of that is obvious. It's apparently not city property. Demolishing it is maybe not simple. Building new there would be tricky. It's smack in the middle of something you want to use while you're doing all this. I see a lot of cost for maybe fifty thousand extra square feet of space and a dozen small meeting rooms. And there are some harder costs to quantify too, since getting rid of it cuts off stage access, and it could maybe make VIP parking slightly trickier. If you don't want the theatre that's not the biggest deal, but it's worth thinking about.

The theatre is more complicated. The space you get is really very small, but it's quite central. And of course there's the above problems of demo and rebuild. Further, It's already a selling point. Sometimes you want a formal space for your keynote speaker. You want the nice chairs and the good lighting and acoustics that don't don't sound like a barn. And sometimes less is more. Makes the fourteen hundred folks there feel special. I can't really imagine where it would ever be BAD to have a small theatre in your bag of tricks. If nothing else it's always another meeting room, albeit a fancier and more vertical one with nicer finishes and better equipment. And again . . . it takes up virtually no space. Had no idea the thing was even there. It's probably no bigger than the visiting locker room in the dome.

Right, back to the dome.

The dome is . . . enormous and useful. You can already break it up into multiple smaller spaces. Masking makes things more flexible than you might expect. And there's already meeting rooms over there. Adding more, now that you don't need locker rooms, sports medicine, equipment storage, team offices, and so forth . . . not a big deal. All that space that was previously blocked out and unavailable for anything else ever is now . . . on the table, baby! Hell, you could probably even get rid of the press box. Apart from concerns about brawls at Guns n' Roses, concerts aren't usually that newsworthy. No one much cares if the band played an extra set or not. (Well, except for me. I want to go home, and every extra set is more time I have to wait . . . for the paying customers to clear out. Yeah, never mind.)

The long and the short of it is it looks to me as though there's quite a lot of room to shuffle things around without calling in the medicine ball and the tower crane. I love tower cranes. Don't get me wrong. But saving a bit of civic cash is also pretty sweet.

So maybe the best thing to do is to find a way to move the stuff that folks will notice least: eleven meeting rooms, offices, and a courtyard. And maybe some seating in the dome. Move the offices. Move 120-132. Roof the courtyard. Demo the stands and storage immediately east of the courtyard. You now have a big, beautiful space in the middle of your convention center roughly equivalent to the floor space of the garage. And you get to keep the garage and theatre.

That doesn't really address subdividing the dome, but . . . how many conventions really need more than a half million square feet of display space? Maybe a few, but can we lure them away from Vegas? Is it worth giving up all the big concerts the dome can otherwise attract?

Eh, who knows? Hopefully the folks actually making the tough decisions already thought of all this stuff.
As an architect, singer, and woodwind player, the destruction of any theatre kills me :)
I love that there's a theatre in there, it's a somewhat attractive room too. I agree, it's a very efficient use of space. And, like any remodeling work, it should only be demo'd if necessary. I'm just saying that it would be worth it to build a new theatre on an adjacent surface lot IF they needed the old theatre's space for Exhibition Hall space.

As for opening up the connection between the exhibition hall and the Dome, yes please. A couple years ago, some nimrod with CVC was arguing for the Dome to be torn down because the connection between the convention center and the Dome wasn't very good. Which is like asking for a town to be torn down because the highway leading to is too narrow.
aprice wrote:
Wed Aug 09, 2017 8:53 am
As an architect, singer, and woodwind player, the destruction of any theatre kills me :)
I love that there's a theatre in there, it's a somewhat attractive room too. I agree, it's a very efficient use of space. And, like any remodeling work, it should only be demo'd if necessary. I'm just saying that it would be worth it to build a new theatre on an adjacent surface lot IF they needed the old theatre's space for Exhibition Hall space.

As for opening up the connection between the exhibition hall and the Dome, yes please. A couple years ago, some nimrod with CVC was arguing for the Dome to be torn down because the connection between the convention center and the Dome wasn't very good. Which is like asking for a town to be torn down because the highway leading to is too narrow.
Fair answer. Sure, if there's some convention space superlatives that can be achieved by moving the theatre across the street, or what have you. There are times when it's necessary, and you can't save them all. But you got me. I do tend to weep over-much for theatres. As a stagehand, composer, singer, and off-again on-again bassist. Also, what woodwind? PM me. I'll add you to my list. I need woodwinds every now and then. :D ;-)
Aprice, thanks for posting the ariel photo. Two things stand out that I think most posters would agree on

First, in hindsight the structured parking garage might have seemed like a great idea at the time but it truly does underutilize space for any future expansion, especially the ballroom & theater space. CVC and city/county politicians truly need to bite the bullet, buy it out and demo now. That space and the surface lot next to it could be utilized much better to the benefit of the convention business

Second, photo gives a great sense of how much space the dome provides to the convention center and what seems to be seamless interface. However, what I understand is that is not the case from an internal perspective. That a lot more work is needed to be done with dome. I think the CVC let alone political leadership has done very little to shine light onto that fact now that the Rams are gone. They should be selling the dome as convention and event space that attracts business to the taxpayers everyday.. It is going to be a much harder to sell dome upgrades as most people won't see any change from the outside.
dredger wrote:
Fri Aug 11, 2017 9:10 am
First, in hindsight the structured parking garage might have seemed like a great idea at the time but it truly does underutilize space for any future expansion, especially the ballroom & theater space.
About that, the parking garage not only pre-dates the America's Center expansion, it also pre-dates the Cervantes Center.
Aerials from 1988 and 1968 respectively:

ImageScreen Shot 2017-08-11 at 9.24.34 AM by Alex Price, on Flickr

ImageScreen Shot 2017-08-11 at 9.31.38 AM by Alex Price, on Flickr