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Coopers & Lybrand report makes case for Union Station Convention Center
February 11, 1998




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For Immediate Release
February 11, 1998
Further information
Beth Solomon (202) 789-7864

7le COMMITTEE of 100 in the FEDERAL CITY

Coopers & Lybrand report makes case for Union Station convention center

The Coopers & Lybrand study by the Washington Convention Center Authority offers the latest evidence that the proposed Mt. Vernon convention center will be obsolete soon after it opens, ignoring market trends and convention industry demands spelled out in the report. But the report fails to analyze costs of the Mt. Vernon plan – the most controversial issue in the debate over D.C.'s largest proposed construction project ever. It is the Committee's view that the Coopers & Lybrand report points to the need for a thorough, independent cost-benefit analysis comparing the Mt. Vernon and Union Station convention center options.

1. Expansion
The Coopers & Lybrand report states that conventions "in terms of net square feet utilized" will continue to grow at a rate of 4 to 6 percent a year, requiring continued expansion in exhibition space and meeting space – not an option at the Mt. Vernon site.

The report is silent on the lack of expansion capability at the Mt. Vernon site.

A September draft of the report obtained by the Committee of 100 went further in stressing the importance of expansion capability. It said that 25 cities "have determined that to maintain or increase their share of the trade show and convention market, facility expansion must be seriously considered. Any expansion project undertaken in Washington, D.C. must be considered in the context of competitive facilities." This statement was removed in later drafts.

2. Need for Adjacent Hotels
Coopers & Lybrand data show that Mt. Vernon cannot provide critical adjacent hotel rooms while Union Station would be ideal. The report says an overwhelming 67 percent of event organizers "require an adjacent hotel for their event." Substantial hotel development is not possible at the Mt. Vernon site without total destruction of the Shaw neighborhood. At Union Station, open land on the west side of the convention center would allow for thousands of new hotel rooms – exactly what Coopers & Lybrand says the market wants.

3. Exhibit Space Preferences
Union Station beats Mt. Vernon in terms of convention center layout, according to the Coopers & Lybrand report. "Contiguous space all on one level [possible at Union Station] is significantly more desirable than stacked exhibit space" with escalators [the Mt. Vernon configuration]. The report continues, "This preference is important to consider for facility designers and architects as they prepare floor plans for the proposed state-of-the-art convention center in Washington, D.C. to replace the existing center." The Washington Convention Center Authority apparently ignored this recommendation, as well. The stacked configuration, including 500,000 square feet of non- expandable exhibition space underground, has added approximately $200 million to the cost of the project, according Washington Post estimates.

4. Lack of Cost Analysis
After nearly a year of study, the Coopers & Lybrand report makes no reference to project costs, which have nearly doubled in recent years to near $850 million in construction and land value, according to GAO estimates.

5. Real Cost-Benefit Analysis is Needed
Along with members of the D.C. Council and dozens of civic groups across the city, the Committee of 100 calls for a thorough, independent cost-benefit analysis comparing the Mt. Vernon and Union Station sites for D.C.'s new convention center.

The Committee of 100 was founded in 1923 to safeguard and advance the fundamental planning, environmental and aesthetic values which enhance the District of Columbia's historic distinction, natural beauty and overall livability.

Chairman Tersh Boasberg is available for comment at (202) 736-2782.

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