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For immediate release
Wed. Sept 17, l 997 6 PM.

New financial report; slams convention center plan as officials panic over contract bid

A scathing report on the proposed convention center at Mt.Vernon Square says the Washington Convention Center Authority plans to spend over $270 million more than necessary to build a new convention center for D.C.

The report, issued by the oldest planning advocacy group in the city, the Committee of 100, says officials are hiding costs of the controversial project in order to keep it moving forward through federal and local approval processes. The real budget for the Mt. Vernon proposal, says the report, is at least $740 million, not $650 million, as officials have claimed.

"Something is wrong with the finances of the proposed convention center at Mt. Vernon Square," says the report. "The project was supposed to cost $450 million. Then it was $550 million, according to the Environmental Impact Statement. Now the Washington Convention Center Authority says the cost will be $650 million, not counting a marshalling yard or the value of the land. What's wrong with this picture?"
The report says the Mt. Vernon Square site for the center -- requiring extensive excavation and costly transportation amenities -- is the reason for the spiraling costs. The report estimates that construction, land and other costs of a convention center at Mt. Vernon Square are $270 million greater than the same costs at the Union Station site. A convention center at that site would cost about $465 million, the report estimates.

Meanwhile, the Washington Convention Center Authority has issued a panicked policy of silence -- even muzzling WCCA Board members -- amid rumors that the contractor likely to build the project has submitted a bid "way over" the $490 million maximum the WCCA was expecting. Higher than expected construction costs would further inflate the existing $90 million to $150 million funding gap already facing the project.

The Committee of 100 will present its report with large charts and graphics following a speech by Council Chair Linda Cropp Thursday, Sept.18, at 1:15 PM at the Sumner School, 17th and M Sts. NW.

For more information, contact: Beth Solomon, Shaw Coalition, (202) 789-7864.

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