After several years of inter-regional bickering between community leaders about the future of Cobo Center in downtown Detroit and how to fund long-awaited improvements there, officials have unveiled plans for Phase III’s $221-million renovation and sprucing up of the home of the North American International Auto Show.
The expected improvements were unveiled on Wednesday, March 2.
The new Cobo Center will include a 40,000-square-foot ballroom featuring a glass wall and open-terrace facing Hart Plaza and downtown Detroit in one direction, with pre-function spacing complimented with a panoramic view of the Detroit River and Canadian border. Additionally, plans call for a three-story glass atrium linking the main floor with a new entrance facing the Detroit River, exterior renovation to the primary facade coupled with what will amount to a large digital signboard welcoming conventions and guests to the area.
Meeting rooms and breakout spaces will be reconfigured, as well. Other improvements expected to be made include a new communications system, increased parking, and environmental upgrades.
Officials expect the project to be completed by December 2014, in time for the 2014 North American International Auto Show.
“We are making the changes to Cobo Center that our customers, stakeholders and competitive research have told us are necessary to return Cobo to an industry-leading status that will assist in attracting meetings and conventions to metro Detroit,” said Larry Alexander, chairman of the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority in a press release distributed on Wednesday, March 2. “We are not satisfied with ‘good enough.’ This plan leapfrogs Cobo Center over competitive convention centers and gives metro Detroit a cornerstone facility worthy of our region’s proven ability to host world-class events.”
The renovations will be paid for initially with bonds, which will be repaid using regional liquor and hotel tax revenues that are collected in the region.
A legislative package enacted in 2009 provided for a 30-year Cobo lease agreement between the city of Detroit and a new five-member regional convention center authority, whereby Detroit received $20 million as a lease payment, as opposed to a sale of the facility — something which had been debated in the past.
The authority board includes a representative of the state government, one member appointed by the city of Detroit, and one member each representing Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties.
Cobo Center boasts 700,000 square feet of exhibition space in five halls, making it the 19th-largest convention center in the United States. It currently features 75 meeting rooms of different sizes — ranging from 600 to 27,000 square feet — totaling 175,000 square feet of meeting space.
Officials in the metro Detroit region have verbally sparred over the years about issues related to Cobo, most often about funding for improvements and expansion.