Local News

Convention center expected to boost downtown's bottom line

Posted August 16, 2008 7:15 p.m. EDT
Updated August 17, 2008 8:08 a.m. EDT

— Downtown business owners and city leaders expect the opening of the new convention center to give a boost to their bottom lines.

After six years of planning and three years of construction, the Raleigh Convention Center will open Sept. 5 amid the concerts, parades and crowds of the Raleigh Wide Open weekend festival.

After the fanfare, the city's $221 million investment in the new convention center should keep reaping financial benefits, Mayor Charles Meeker said. He estimated that the project will help pump as much as $80 million annually into the local economy.

"We'll have 800 to 1,200 people here most weeks," Meeker said. "And that's a lot of people going to restaurants and clubs. That's a lot of people shopping, so it really will be a boost to our economy."

Ed Mitchell said that he expects traffic to pick up in downtown barbecue restaurant, The Pit.

"We've been anticipating this excitement," Mitchell said.

His restaurant opens six days a week, but with the opening of the convention center, plans are to start grilling on Sundays as well, Mitchell said.

The 500,000-square-foot convention center will offer 19 meeting rooms, an exhibit hall and a ballroom. Officials said more than 140 conventions have already been booked, bringing an average of 900 people to Raleigh for four days.

The convention center has been encouraging investors to seriously consider downtown Raleigh, said Paul Reimel, economic development manager for the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.

"A lot of developers checking in with our office and our colleagues to see, you know, what spaces are available and what's coming online," Reimel said.

The city money spent on the convention center – $41 million over its budget – will pay off in the end by encouraging more downtown development, he said.

For example, a new Marriot hotel that will double the number of rooms available downtown was pushed by the opening of the convention center, investors said.

"It certainly helps the private sector to see the public sector putting in investments," Reimel said.