January 23, 2008

The latest plan to expand the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City calls for adding no more than 100,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space, at the cost of $1.6 billion, according to the Empire State Development Corp. The new proposal outlines an expansion significantly smaller in scale than what had been discussed previously. The state also plans to sell land owned by the Javits Center in order to raise $800 million for other economic development projects, including the possible extension of the No. 7 subway line from Times Square to 11th Avenue, closer to the center. Another project being considered is a convention hotel, to be built between 38th and 39th streets, instead of between 35th and 36th streets, as previously proposed.

Las Vegas Sands last week celebrated the grand opening of its 50-story, 3,000-suite Palazzo Hotel-Resort-Casino, adjacent to the Venetian and the Sands Expo and Convention Center. The new property contains 450,000 square feet of meeting space, bringing the total amount of meeting space in the combined Palazzo, Venetian and Sands Expo complex to 2.25 million square feet. The Canyon Ranch SpaClub now spans 134,000 square feet. The luxury property includes 450,000 square feet of retail, dining and entertainment space on two levels. The Shoppes at the Palazzo feature an 80,000-square-foot Barneys New York, and dining options will include Wolfgang Puck's CUT and Mario Batali's CarneVino, in addition to a dozen more fine-dining venues. A 1,800-seat theater will be home to the Broadway hit "Jersey Boys" beginning this spring.

France's culture minister has proposed taxing luxury hotel guests two euros (US$3) to fund restoration work for hundreds of aging historic buildings. According to the BBC, the minister said the proposed tax could generate some 50 million euros (US$75 million) a year for restoration work; the BBC also reported that France's hotel industry is opposed to the proposed tax. The estimated annual cost of restoring French monuments is about US$600 million.

The Convention Industry Council Task Force on Sustainability & Responsibility convened for the first time last week in Seattle at the Professional Convention Management Association's annual meeting. The group identified three priorities it would tackle: Compile green meeting practices, develop education on industry sustainability and identify tools to measure sustainability. Other topics discussed included social responsibility, regulatory impact, research and certification. The task force was chaired by Bruce MacMillan, president and CEO of Meeting Professionals International.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders announced that he wants the San Diego Convention Center to expand. "Our world-class convention center has been one of our best investments ever," Sanders said in his "state of the city" address on Jan. 10. "As we plan for the future, if we're to remain competitive with other convention cities who work constantly to take away our business, we'll need to grow in the next 10 years," he added. Steven Johnson, vice president of public affairs for the convention center, said center officials would like to see the facility double in size to one million square feet of exhibit space, with a proportionate increase in meeting space. The last expansion at the center opened in 2001.

The 128-suite Rosewood Mayakoba opened on a 1,600-acre stretch of the Riviera Maya, 30 minutes south of Cancun, Mexico. The seaside resort, which covers a number of small islands and is surrounded by a mangrove jungle, overlooks a Greg Norman-designed golf course to which guests have access. Each room has its own dock, and a teakwood, thatched-roof boat transports guests between rooms, the spa and the restaurant.