MASTER PLANNER: Rob Svedberg is principal at Atlanta-based TVS. (Courtesy TVS)

Project aims to re-invent downtown experience

Master planning is complete on the $3 billion Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center renovation project in Dallas.

“That’s been approved and they’ve gone out for procurement on project manager,” said Rob Svedberg, principal with TVS. “To me it’s one of the more exciting projects in the industry right now.”

Svedberg said the project “has as much to do with reinventing the city as it does with what it will mean for the event business.”

“A lot of these buildings were built on edge-land that was along railroad tracks or in a floodplain because they need a lot of space,” he said. “A lot of them, especially buildings in the kind of urban renewal eras, were also used like highways were, to split neighborhoods off from any other and to kind of separate cities a little bit and Dallas is an example where the building kind of separated downtown from a really what is now a vibrant part of the city.

The architecture firm worked with the city to “re-envision how that whole part of the town would work,” Svedberg said.

“Instead of just fixing it on its existing site, we basically rotated the building, doing a whole new facility, and the land where the existing building is then becomes a new mixed-use district,” he said. “So, instead of blocking one neighborhood from another, it will link them all together.”

Having a vibrant neighborhood district around a convention and meeting space is as important as having a good hotel package, Svedberg said.

“You have to do a lot of things right when you do these buildings,” he said. “You have to make them work for the customers of the event, but that’s not enough.”

Event attendees and vendors like to feel connected to the city they’re in and that’s led to an ongoing trend of adding terraces and other open-air spaces, ideally with a view, according to Svedberg.

“They want to feel what it’s like to live in Dallas or Atlanta or somewhere, he said.

The project, which goes out for design procurement later this year, will expand the amount of meeting rooms and ballrooms while holding exhibit space roughly steady, “but they completely re-envisioned the environment and it will be one of those things that sets them apart as a destination for generations,” Svedberg said.

For example, the Black Academy of Arts and Letters, which is practically connected to the current convention center becomes a standalone facility and gets renovated. The original Dallas Arena will be reconverted into a standalone venue and preserved.

“City Hall is right there, but there’s also Pioneer Park and the stampede sculpture that’s a big draw in the city and then on the other side of the highway there’s the incredible warehouse district where Gillie’s is and there’s a good amount of night life and residential together,” Svedberg said.

Connecting to the activity around a convention center often includes opening up a view. That’s the case in Denver, where tvs is in a design-build project with with Hensel Phelps Construction.

The approximately $212 million projects adds an 80,000-square-foot flexible-use hall and a roughly 20,000-square-foot outdoor terrace with a view of the Rocky Mountains.

“That one was baked before we got there, so we didn’t help on the programming side, but it’s a very interesting project in that you’ve got a convention center in Denver that if you would get to the roof has spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains, which reinforces their whole destination story and you couldn’t really see the mountains from inside the building,” Svedberg said.

The expansion adds needed event space while giving the client a “brand-centric, on-brand event space.

“If the building was being designed now versus when it was done it would have taken advantage of that,” he said.

Other convention center projects in the TVS portfolio include the roughly $400 million renovation of the Wisconsin Center, which will host the 2024 Republican National Convention.

The building had a steel topping-out ceremony on May 10.

“It’s well along,” Svedberg said describing the expansion of an elevated exhibit hall that’s being with new meeting rooms and parking underneath, a new rooftop ballroom with a terrace and views to the Milwaukee River.

“I’m not sure you’re going to see the lake from up there but taking advantage of that incredible (Deer District) destination they’ve created there with Fiserv Center and all the activity that’s happening,” he said.

Tvs also designed the expansion that roughly doubles the size of the Savannah Convention Center a project that involves construction of a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall with a 50,000 or 60,000-square-foot ballroom on top of it (with) an outdoor terrace

“Similar to Milwaukee, that is a story of a successful market needing to grow,” Svedberg said. “The events are different and in the case of Milwaukee they have a really good hotel package so they can support more space. In the case of Savannah they’re going to need to do a hotel with the expansion.”

In Cleveland tvs is working on the conversion of the 10-year-old Medical Mart, also known as the Global Center for Health Innovation, into into meeting space.

“We were the design architects on that and then there’s a design builder now that’s going to execute that project,” Svedberg said.

The company is doing a small project down in Bradenton, Florida, at small center that’s trying to add some ballroom and meeting spaces.

“They’re connecting it to a new hotel they’re building,” Svedberg said.

The company is about to kick of the design of a $200 million renovation of the Cincinnati Convention Center, for which tvs completed a master plan.

“They have a new hotel development deal they’re doing and they have a great package,” Svedberg said. “It’s a great town that’s geographically central. They have a good meeting room and banquet package but it’s a tired building and it just needs love from the guest experience point of view.”

The space around the convention center outshines the experience available to event attendees and exhibitors.

“Getting to spend the money where the people are is always fun,” Svedberg said. “With that and the new hotel, I think they’ll have a really strong package.”

Current or recent projects in TVS portfolio:

Active Expansion Projects

Ft Worth – $701 million

Milwaukee – $456 million

Savannah  – $276 million

Denver – $233 million

Cleveland  – $49 million

Bradenton – $42 million

Denver Convention Center

213,000 sf expansion (1.8M sf existing)

80,000 sf column free multipurpose room

Outdoor rooftop terrace

150,000 sf meeting space

600,000 sf exhibit space

5,000 seat Bellco Theatre

Projected opening date – Late 2023

Entire expansion sits above the existing Exhibit Hall, requiring 90’ long x 10’ deep trusses in all directions to support the new floor

At 80,000 sf, the expansion project’s new ballroom will be the largest in Colorado.

Brings the outside in with spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains

Savannah Convention Center

365,000 sf expansion (330,000 sf existing)

100,000 sf of exhibit hall space

42,000 sf ballroom

23,000 sf meeting rooms (14 total)

“Integrated glass” hanger door

950-space parking garage with multiple covered entrances to the building

Additional F&B areas

Projected opening date – Late 2023

Design highlights include stunning glass entry/drop-off area, grand curtainwall facade entry on the north, ballroom with views of Talmadge Memorial Bridge, and two rooftop terraces with views to the city and of Hutchinson Island

Wisconsin Center

112,000 sf expansion (188,000 sf existing)

112,000 sf expo hall to create 300,000 contiguous sf of expo hall

30,000 sf ballroom

24 meeting rooms

Employee locker rooms, break, training and briefing rooms

Gender-neutral bathrooms

Quiet rooms and nursing mother’s rooms

Outdoor patio spaces

Visit Milwaukee Visitor Center

Six loading docks

400 parking spaces

Sophisiticated WiFi and IT infrastructure

Broke ground in Oct 2021. Projected opening date – Early 2024

Doubles existing size including the addition of rooftop ballroom and outdoor terraces, expo space and flexible meeting rooms

Design incorporates glass facades that provide ample natural light, a unique monumental freshwater display installation, high-tech AV offerings, operational efficiencies and best-in-class health and safety mitigation contingencies