A martini is a terrible thing to waste.

The Convention Center.


Apr 1, 2010 21 Comments

Can we talk about the proposed Albany Convention Center for a second?

It usually takes me a few times hearing something before I start to listen.  And lately there’s been a lot of talk about how the Convention Center people are going to purchase 3 more acres of land in downtown Albany to use for their Convention Center.

My questions are these:

First and foremost, is this thing really happening?

1.  Who are these Convention Center people?  Is it a private organization who is going to build and staff the convention center?  Or is it a City of Albany project?

2.  Are people who live in Albany excited about it? Or do most people think it’s going to clog up the highways with a bunch of pasty out of towners.

3.  Are the downtown Albany businesses excited about the idea of a gigantic Convention Center?  I would think so.  I certainly like the idea of thousands of people coming into Albany for a few days and eating at my restaurants.

4.  When is this thing going to be built?  And when it is built, is it going to be an enormous construction site that creates traffic problems for a year or two?

I like the Jacob Javitz center in NYC because they have awesome Car shows and restaurant shows and comic book conventions.  It would be nice to have legitimate trade shows in Albany, unlike the embarrassing Auto Show they have every year in the Times Union Center, where they display cars you can see on any car dealer’s lot.  (“Look at our brand new shiny 2009 Chrysler Sebring!  Don’t you want one.”  No.  I want to see concept cars and 2011 models.  And hot lesbians in bikinis modeling off 2011 Subaru Outbacks.  (you know I love Subarus.)

At this point, I’m on board with the idea of a convention center in Albany, unless I’m missing something.  It seems like it’s going to create jobs, bring people to Albany, and help local businesses.

UPDATE:  We were  contacted by Gavin J. Donohue, Chairman of the Albany Convention Center Authority!!  He took the time to answer some of these questions.  Thank you, GJD.

1.  Who are these Convention Center people?  Is it a private organization who is going to build and staff the convention center?  Or is it a City of Albany project?

The Albany Convention Center Authority (ACCA) is a New York State public authority charged with the responsibility to plan, build and operate the convention center.  The ACCA board is made up of 9 unpaid volunteer members and there are two paid staff.  The design will be completed by HNTB architecture, a private firm based in Kansas City Missouri, and the construction will be managed by Gilbane Construction of Providence Rhode Island who has teamed up with Barry, Bette and Led Duke, an Albany based construction firm.

As a New York State project planned to bring economic benefit to Albany and the capital region, the ACCA is working closely with Albany Mayor Jennings and Albany County Executive Breslin to maximize the benefits.

2.  Are people who live in Albany excited about it? Or do most people think it’s going to clog up the highways with a bunch of pasty out of towners.

The ACCA holds meetings monthly which are open to the public and has presented the project to overwhelming approval.  The current plan locates parking along Broadway for easy on, easy off access to the highway system and to take the pressure off of the street grid.

3.  Are the downtown Albany businesses excited about the idea of a gigantic Convention Center?  I would think so.  I certainly like the idea of thousands of people coming into Albany for a few days and eating at my restaurants.

The restaurants and hotels will directly benefit from 138, 500 new visitors per year and the response to the project from the business owners, the Downtown Business Improvement District members, and people in the travel and tourism industry has been very positive.

4.  When is this thing going to be built?  And when it is built, is it going to be an enormous construction site that creates traffic problems for a year or two?

The project only requires an approval of the plan of finance by Governor Paterson and the release of the funds set aside by former Governor Pataki to begin and it will take about 2 years to complete.  Due to the convenient location, and just as the visitors will have easy access on and off the highways, so will the construction workers and vehicles, keeping tie ups to a minimum.

At this point, I’m on board with the idea of a convention center in Albany, unless I’m missing something.  It seems like it’s going to create jobs, bring people to Albany, and help local businesses.

138,500 visitors, $67 M per year in new business, $3.7 M in new tax revenue, 300 construction jobs and 800 full time equivalent jobs at the businesses that do business with the center, at the center, and around the city once the convention center is open.

Sounds good to me.

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  • DB
    Apr 1, 2010 at 12:43 am

    The issue right now with the center is The State. They are supposed to front some money but we all know NYS is broke. The Timesunion is against it and the voice that in their paper.
    I am for it. But I am biased. If they build it, that means business for my company. Just like the AMD chip plant. I can count on that contract for the next three years.
    Like you I think it would be good for Albany to get people attracted to the area.

  • the Original Colleen
    Apr 1, 2010 at 8:06 am

    No, most people are not excited and they think it is a bad use of both space and money. I am not excited because they are going to buy my parking lot and I will then have no place to park during the day……so I’ll be parking at Wolff’s and walking to work….unless there’s a shuttle bus that you can suggest?

  • Scott
    Apr 1, 2010 at 8:15 am

    I’m not a fan of this thing at all. Unfortunately I don’t have any answers you’re looking for. But I feel building a convention center a stone’s throw away from the Times Union Center is a waste of time and funds. Albany is great. Albany could be greater with less boarded up building in…ooohh….EVERY NEIGHBORHOOD. It’s a shame when you have to admit that 3/4′s of Albany resembles a ghetto or slum a bit too closely.

    Jennings is on a serious kick with this convention center. Perhaps he can spend less time tanning and more time thinking about those neighborhoods that can use some more revitalization. Don’t get me wrong, the Lark St. revamp was kinda cool. The Delaware Ave revamp is kinda cool. The South Pearl St. revamp was a joke. The fake brick facade started peeling off in a mere couple of years. Do we need to upgrade our Times Union Center? Perhaps. But a second entertainment venue just blocks away? OVERKILL!

  • Dan
    Apr 1, 2010 at 8:49 am

    They’ve been saying they are going to build this thing for over 20 years. Who knows. It seems like every city of any size has one, so I guess its not a bad idea for Albany to have one too. Its not the City of Albany or the State building it at this point. Its a private commission or authority or something. My question is. Where will everyone park?

  • Ferfer
    Apr 1, 2010 at 9:17 am

    I think the real question is, will anyone actually use the convention center? I have a hard time seeing Albany as an attractive convention destination more than a couple months out of the year. But I don’t claim to be an expert in such things.

  • Ned
    Apr 1, 2010 at 10:24 am

    The rumored Brooks Brothers in Albany as part of the Convention Center shops would make it worth it to me…

  • D
    Apr 1, 2010 at 10:38 am

    what about the people who LIVE in the area that they want to build a convention center? Where would the build it? Right on top of the South End? in my opinion, the city should be investing in the future of the city and its residents by creating affordable, livable housing. Then the businesses in the city would have steady income from Albany residents and not just business from corporate trade shows. Investing in the people who live and work here seems like a good way to spend some money…

  • JOB
    Apr 1, 2010 at 10:58 am

    I agree with D, my fiance and I would love to move into the city in a nice condo or townhome. The more people invest into neighborhoods the better the neighborhoods become. Less crime and more money put into the city.

  • Chone
    Apr 1, 2010 at 11:41 am

    As a professional in the design industry, it would always be nice to have some new architecture to the city. However, doing something of this scale, in a time of an economic recession, doesn’t seem to make sense. It’s understood the facility would bring the construction jobs along with the future jobs of managing the facility, but as far as additional business actually coming to the capital region is a hope. Albany is located in a great spot between major cities and with tech valley growing, hope is on the horizon. However, with this proposal, none of the existing problems are addressed. Albany still remains a ghetto and the roads will still do damage to your car. The money could and should be better used for “quality of life” purposes. I believe that in return, can achieve the same goals as building a monster convention center. Make people want to live in the city rather than be transient occupants to the city. Ok…soap box over.

  • meierrain
    Apr 1, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Brookings did an analysis of convention centers back in 2005, and found that they didn’t tend to be a good investment and the the country has more than enough convention center place to meet the demand. Personally, I don’t understand why Albany needs a convention center in addition to the Crowne Plaza, the TU Center, the Egg, and the Empire State Plaza Convention Center. I agree with previous commenters that investment in housing, redevelopment, and local businesses would offer much more meaningful and sustainable growth for downtown Albany.

    Here is the link to the report:

  • Jameson to the rescue
    Apr 1, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    @Chone…Albany is a ghetto!?! Where the hell do you live…

  • Eddie
    Apr 1, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    The convention center is a waste of money and will be yet another eyesore in downtown Albany. I think we should focus on revitalizing the riverfront and redirecting 787. Why are we wasting the city’s most valuable resource?

  • Casey
    Apr 1, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Agree 100% with Eddie. I just do not see in any way shape or form how this is going to generate the city any actual money. Other people sure. Contractors (someone’s friend), engineers (someone’s wife’s family) etc. But not the city and definitely not the taxpayers. If they ever get the money from the state (from… where?) and actually build this thing, it’s going to turn into the area dirt mall in 5 years. At first people will go because it’s a novelty. Then it’ll be Latham Circle Mall circa 2001. Except we’ll be paying for it forever instead of laughing about how we used to hang out there when we were twelve.

    It’d be great if you could actually SEE the river that built this city from Albany without having to climb over 787 or hang out at UHaul…

  • DB
    Apr 1, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Some upscale housing would be great for Albany. I am trying to find a nice manhattan style apartment and haven’t found anything good.
    You look at the TU center though and they are posting profits even in a recession. People seem to be concerned with the future, will the place turn a profit?if they get the right management team in there, then there should be no stopping the place. A sucessful center could lead to more and more things for Albany. But either way for/against we have to start somewhere.

  • creed
    Apr 1, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    After being in the tourism/ destination sales industry for more than 20 years………..Albany NEEDS this! How can it hurt? The meetint planners and tourism folks will sell this facility and the area to people coming here who’s money is GREEN and AMERICAN. Come on……..growth and opportunity………how can that be bad?

    Check out their website for more info. I left Albany for South Florida about 7 years ago and this was a germ of an idea. Now.. it’s maybe a golf ball or an egg………..it’s growing. The powers that be are smart visionaries who want ALBANY back on the map.

    Take a risk. Make a change. Be a visionary.

  • Benji
    Apr 2, 2010 at 10:32 am

    I think a convention center would work really well in Albany, just look what it has done for Hartford Connecticut, Springfield Massachusetts, and Buffalo New York. We seem to be doing a great job of looking at all the positive things that COULD come from just building a convention center and another hotel. Correct me if I am wrong, but we already have four hotels in downtown Albany who are paying a tax to build this convention center and new hotel even though they are having trouble keeping their rooms filled.

    It seems the Authority has forgotten why people decide to have a convention in a a certain city. Isn’t it a big part of the decision process to have a convention in a city where there are lots of attractions for people to attend before or after the convention?

    The convention center authority has presented us with plans for a new convention center that just has a hotel attached to it. (btw we have a convention center already, it is in the concourse of the Empire State Plaza, unfortunately it is beyond outdated), but I have not seen any plans for other things that would go along with that plan (well besides a parking garage). What about what attracts people to a city where they have built a convention center? People go to those cities because they have THINGS TO DO! Look at the successful convention centers in NYC, Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Orlando, Chicago. Granted Downtown Albany has a few WONDERFUL things, Albany Symphony Orchestra, Capital Rep. Theatre, Albany Institute of History & Art, Albany Center Gallery, but what else?? Where is the plan for an aquarium, an imax theater, consistent sustainable public transportation. Sorry CDTA buses don’t make great public transpiration, light rail, trolleys, and the like do. Buses are suppose to enhance the system not be the system.

    So I guess my rant is where are the rest of the puzzle pieces? If we just build a convention center and a hotel, are we not just doing what Buffalo, Hartford, and Springfield have done? They all have a great convention center and great hotels and all the same things Albany does including a public transpiration system completely built around buses.

    As the over all plans sits it seems it is a waste of taxpayer money. I would be 100% a convention center if all of the other parts of the plan actually existed.

  • albany county
    Apr 2, 2010 at 10:58 am

    It’s a bad idea – I don’t care what Donahue says! Albany cannot support conventions especially with our lame airport. What are the other attractions that would get conventions here? Wake up people! Jim Coyne already tried this!

  • Chris V
    Apr 2, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Ummm… You guys understand that when the “State” pays for something that means us. Right? You and me, and your next door neighbor and that annoying lady down the street. Like we paid for the “Joe”, and 500k toward the archaeology center at St. Rose, and the roundabout at exit 6.
    Isn’t paying for something really expensive that has a low probability of success a bad idea when your state has the highest tax burden in the country? I’m just sayin…

  • laym
    Apr 2, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Many of the commenters here have pointed out that this will for the most part be paid for with state money. We Albanians will theoretically benefit from this state money being spent here. The rest of the state taxpayers should be a little peeved about this.

    Mr. Donohue mentioned that the authority holds monthly public meetings. He did not mention that these meetings are typically held in the morning, on weekdays. That’s a nice way for them to avoid hearing from residents who have 9 to 5 jobs.

    I also question his estimates of attendance and revenue. This is Albany, people. What national organizer is going to pick this city as a convention location? How can he claim that there will be that many full-time jobs? Will there be events every day? Most days? Every couple of weeks?

    The mayor’s preferred builders will benefit. And as long as it’s mostly state money, the mayor is going to be all for this.

    I’m pretty skeptical about the benefits, and about the priorities of using state tax money for this.

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