At present, the Javits Center ranks as the 18th largest convention center in North America. The Convention Center is not large enough to host the 60 largest annual shows and the space it does have, is completely booked.
During the summer of 2006, New York State officials approved $1.7 billion for the expansion of the Javits Convention Center. Tourism is at an all-time high since 9/11, and many believe that with a larger convention center, more meetings and conventions will come to New York City, increasing hotel and tourism revenues for the city.
The current expansion plan calls for extending the center two blocks north, to 40th Street, and adding a new floor for a ballroom that would double as meeting and exhibit space. The Spitzer administration has argued against the Pataki-era plans saying that while the current expansion plan has a hefty $1.8 billion price tag, it provides too little new exhibition and meeting space to attract more trade shows and conventions to the city. Trade show managers and executives from the New York International Automobile Show also have expressed criticism of the vertical nature of the expansion project, which they say would increase the cost of shows in New York and undercut the city’s ability to compete with other locations.
Spitzer has argued for a larger expansion – adding up to 350,0000 square feet of additional exhibition and meeting room space — by demolishing the Quill bus garage at 41st Street and 11th Avenue and building underground meeting rooms on the convention center’s truck marshalling yard, on the south side of the Javits Center. Plans to demolish the Quill garage at 11th Avenue and 41st Street to enable a more horizontal expansion of the Javits Center have yet to be approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — owner of the site.
Spitzer has also questioned the city’s plan for the truck marshalling yard at the south end of Javits to a new multistory garage that would be built between 39th and 40th Streets. Proponents say the garage would get trucks off the streets and permit security screening, while the old marshaling yard could be sold for as much as $400 million for residential and commercial towers. Spitzer is now proposing to use the block between 33rd and 34th Streets, along 11th Avenue, for meeting room space and possibly security screening. The state would offset the cost by selling the development rights over the parcel to developers for high-rise buildings.
The Bloomberg administration fears that Spitzer’s new plans would add 6 years to the planned construction and an additional $1 billion to the budget.
On January 18th, 2007, after deliberations, the State’s initial plans were significantly scaled back. While a major renovation of the outdated center is still in the works, an expansion for additional meeting space of only 100,000 square feet has been decided upon in order to stay within budget. Previously, an expansion of 350,000-500,000 square feet was recommended in order to stay competitive. Plans to build a convention hotel, truck garage and truck security screening facility on the block between 38th and 39th Streets and 11th and 12th Avenues are also on the table as part of the expansion.
Surprisingly, Spitzer and the State also plan to sell off the land on the block between 39th and 40th Streets and 11th and 12th Avenues, currently owned by the Javits Center, in order to make revenue of over $800 million for other economic development projects in the area. These development projects include the Number 7 subway line extension and the expansion of Hudson River Park. Selling off this property could limit any future outward expansion of the convention center due to lack of available space, disappointing many in the convention industry.