How an accidentally well-timed convention center overhaul will boost Uptown

How an accidentally well-timed convention center overhaul will boost Uptown
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Unlike many construction projects around town, the ongoing expansion of the Charlotte Convention Center is on schedule, if not slightly ahead. Once it’s finished, the facility could help bolster Uptown’s economic recovery, leaders say.

Why it matters: The facility’s $126.9 million overhaul comes at a crucial time for Uptown.

  • The pandemic forced 12 conventions to cancel in 2020, according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, Charlotte’s tourism arm.
  • Corporate employees that used to fill Uptown towers and patronize local businesses continue to work from home.
  • The list of restaurants and bars that’ve closed keeps growing.

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Zoom out: The city of Charlotte has been planning an overhaul of the convention center for years as a way to lure large, lucrative conventions and meetings to town. Construction began in December 2019 and is now about 60% of the way through, says Tom Murray, CEO of the CRVA.

  • “It’s an incredibly complex project. We’re building a building on top of a building,” Murray says. “We’re also doing it on a building with a light rail running through it. And it’s right on one of the busiest corridors in the city.”

Details: The city came up with a wish list of projects within the expansion based on the needs of meeting planners around the country. A few of the big ones include:

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  • A pedestrian bridge connecting the Convention Center to the 700-room Westin Hotel across Stonewall.
  • More breakout space: The project will up the number of meeting spaces from 41 to 55.
  • The project will add 50,000 square feet of leasable space, roughly the size of a typical Harris Teeter, bringing the total size of the center to about 600,000 square feet.
Charlotte Convention Center

Charlotte Convention Center

What he’s saying: “What it allows us to do is go after larger conventions and at times book simultaneous conventions. Before that, we were limited by our space,” Murray says. “This makes us much more competitive, and we’re excited about that.”

The timing of the project worked out fortuitously well.

  • Because there was very little business going on inside the convention center, construction crews have been able to move more rapidly. Plus, they don’t have to be as sensitive about making a lot of noise, Murray says.
  • Because there’s been less traffic Uptown, it’s been easier to shut down Stonewall for long stretches to work on the pedestrian bridge.

Here’s what the expanded convention center will look like when it opens this fall.

All renderings are courtesy of CRVA and tvsdesign, an architecture and design firm.

Charlotte Convention Center rendering (charlottemeetings.com, courtesy of tvsdesign)

Charlotte Convention Center rendering (charlottemeetings.com, courtesy of tvsdesign)

Charlotte Convention Center rendering (charlottemeetings.com, courtesy of tvsdesign)

Charlotte Convention Center rendering (charlottemeetings.com, courtesy of tvsdesign)

Charlotte Convention Center rendering (charlottemeetings.com, courtesy of tvsdesign)


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