The Washington State Convention Center will get 4 acres to double the center's capacity to help compete against other cities like Portland with larger facilities.
The Washington State Convention Center has reached a deal with King County Metro to buy 4 acres in downtown for $147 million, officials said Tuesday.
The deal for Metro’s Convention Place Station is the linchpin of a $1.4 billion project to double the capacity of the convention center and help the region compete against cities like Denver, Portland and Vancouver, B.C., which have larger facilities.
Under the deal, King County Metro will receive $283 million over 30 years because the convention center will pay for the property in installments: $15 million up front;interest-only payments during construction; and, from 2023 to 2045, principal and interest payments at 5 percent interest, plus an annual escalation for inflation.
Transit officials say 7,000 daily riders now use Convention Place Station, the northern terminus for the downtown bus tunnel. The site is bounded by Olive Way, Boren Avenue, Pine Street and Ninth Avenue.
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Bus service at that station could end as early as 2019 but no later than June 2020, officials said, when the tunnel will be used solely by light-rail trains. By then, the largest convention hotel north of San Francisco will be open a block away.
Officials expect to put more buses on surface streets to handle greater demand for service.
Both sides said the arrangement was a good deal.
“It’s important the convention center expands so we can accommodate larger gatherings, and more of them,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine in an interview. The deal also lets the county “secure funds over a long period of time for Metro transit,” he said, money that will be used both for maintenance and capital projects.
Matt Griffin, the developer managing the expansion project, said the deal gives the convention center certainty about the biggest piece of the land it’s assembled, as well as the advantage of paying less cash up front.
“It allows us to move forward with the county and others on completing this addition, which brings in $240 million a year in additional revenue to the community,” he said.
An economic-impact study suggests the expansion will attract $200 million annually in additional out-of-state revenue and $40 million in additional in-state revenue.
The expansion project is expected to support 6,000 construction jobs and generate 4,200 direct and indirect jobs once the 440,000-square-foot exhibition facility opens in 2020, Griffin said.
The deal with King County requires the convention center to set aside $5 million for affordable housing, which could be built on-site or off-site, Griffin said.
If the convention center were to have problems making payments, its hotel tax revenue is pledged as security, officials said. The convention center plans to issue about $1.1 billion in bonds for the expansion project.
The deal is still contingent on approval by the Metropolitan King County Council and the convention center’s board, and is expected to be finalized next year.
Editorial: Consider transit in convention center plans