by Sarah J.F. Braley | March 01, 2016
Why here?
Houston is hopping with upgrades, new-builds, new restaurants and more. From the extensive work at and around the convention center, where a new headquarters hotel opens in October, to a music hall and new exhibits at the Space Center, groups have plenty of exciting venues to explore.

• Fresh from a recent renovation, the Alley Theatre offers two stages seating 774 and 310, respectively, plus five other spaces, including a boardroom; a gallery; and the elegant, circular tiered lobby.

• The Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston opened last fall. The venue has several spaces available for rent; its four stages seat from 100 to 180 people.

More than six miles of tunnels run under Houston, originally created as a connector between two movie theaters. Restaurants, stores and more now unite 95 city blocks.

Opening this spring is the White Oak Music Hall in the Near North Side neighborhood. A two-story concert hall hosting 1,000 will share space with a 200-seat stage and a lawn for events of up to 3,000 people.
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Local Update
 A tidy $1.5 billion is being spent to reconfigure areas surrounding the George R. Brown Convention Center. The facility itself also is being renovated for $175 million, adding multiple ground-floor restaurants. Four of six street lanes in front of the center are being turned into a pedestrian plaza running the length of the building. A new entrance is being created, and 90,000 square feet of contiguous foyer space is being added. The work should be finished by October.

 The 1,000-room Marriott Marquis Houston, connected by skybridge to the convention center, will open Oct. 1. The property will have 100,000 square feet of its own meeting space, including Houston's largest ballroom at 39,000 square feet. Amenities will include a deck with an infinity pool and Texas-shaped lazy river, a full-service spa and a 5,000-square-foot fitness center, as well as two specialty restaurants, a two-story sports bar, a wine bar, a lobby bar, a café, and a pool bar and grill.

 Space Center Houston has opened a full-scale replica of the space shuttle and its NASA 747 ferry aircraft. Exhibits include the flight deck and shuttle cockpit, astronaut living quarters mid-deck and more. The area, Independence Plaza, holds up to 100 for events.

 The Sunset Coffee Building at Buffalo Bayou is being renovated to offer a rooftop event space, watercraft and bike rentals, and an outdoor plaza. When construction is finished, Houston First Corp., which owns and operates the convention center and other venues around the city, will take over ownership of the building.

 A Starbucks has opened in the lobby of the 1,200-room Hilton Americas-Houston, which is connected by skybridge to the convention center. The outlet offers the usual menu plus the limited-edition Starbucks Reserve coffees, as well as an expanded menu in the evening offering small plates and curated wines and beers. The hotel has more than 90,000 square feet of meeting space.

The 325-room Hyatt Regency Houston Galleria is now open. The hotel has the Urban Star restaurant, bar and market, plus more than 11,000 square feet of meeting space, a heated outdoor pool and sun deck, and a StayFit gym. The 157-room Hyatt Place Houston Galleria debuted next door in January.