San Diego Business Journal

The executive board of the San Diego Convention Center Corp. has picked a team that includes Fentress Architects, John Portman & Associates and Civitas Inc. to design a proposed $700 million expansion of the downtown facility.

The team was selected from five finalist teams that submitted conceptual design studies and fee proposals for what would be a third-phase expansion of the convention center. Plans call for adding 225,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit hall space; about 100,000 square feet of meeting room space; and an 80,000-square-foot ballroom to the current building.

City and convention center officials have not finalized financing for the expansion, though a plan is expected to be in place in early 2011. The proposal also calls for the possible addition of a 500-room hotel to support the expansion.

Fentress and Civitas are headquartered in Denver, while Portman is based in Atlanta.

In a Nov. 9 statement, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said the team’s designs were selected in part for embracing the center’s waterfront location by including a 5-acre rooftop park.

“The Convention Center continues to be one of San Diego’s strongest assets driving jobs, tax revenues and economic benefits, all of which will significantly increase when the building expands, and Fentress’ design will take us there,” Sanders said.

Convention center leaders say the 20-year-old facility needs the addition to accommodate demands for space. Officials have estimated that an expansion would bring an annual economic impact of $698 million to the city, on top of the center’s current $1.3 billion impact.

Plans also include a waterfront promenade on the ground floor, with retail shops, pedestrian walkways and a waterfront transportation center. While Fentress is designing the Convention Center expansion, Portman will design a 250- to 500-room hotel adjacent to the current facility that is also part of expansion plans.

Civitas, a national leader in landscape architecture and urban design, will be involved in designing the rooftop park and waterfront promenade. Design proposals were requested in August, and vetted over the past several weeks by a panel of planning and development professionals, regional design and technical advisers.

When the expansion is complete, the center will have more than 750,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit hall space, making it the largest on the West Coast. Officials said the expansion would be built under standards of the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

— Lou Hirsh