August 2, 2018 – Some additional information about the planned Convention Center renovation has come to light. As reported in our July story, after the lowest bid for the renovation came in $24 million more than the budgeted amount an effort was launched to cut down on the expenses without significantly reducing the quality or scope of the project. Those involved called the revisions “value engineering.” In our previous report, the estimated savings was still being calculated by a consulting firm. That figure came in at $35 million. The Memphis Convention Center Board of Commissioners was told that now the estimate base cost was $113.6 million with four optional packages. The Commissioners made it clear they wanted three of those four alternatives included, but that would raise the expected cost to about $185.7 million. The elements left out of the “base bid” but which commissioners clearly wish to include are meeting rooms in the west section of the convention center (on the west side of Front Street), a new loading dock for big trucks, and meeting rooms in the South Hall.
Another feature which was originally discarded in the value engineering effort was the pedestrian bridge between the Sheraton Hotel and the convention center. It turns out, however, that bridge belongs to the Sheraton and the owners of that facility want the bridge to stay, so it is now back in the plans and is included in the base bid.
The one optional package that appears to be still left out is the renovation of the third floor to provide more meeting rooms.
According to a person knowledgeable about the planning, the city will be looking to see if an additional $10-15 million can be found so that the renovation plan will not be “compromised.” Another person involved in the talks simply says, “we’ve got to figure out something” to get the additional funds. The $175 million budget was planned using hotel/motel taxes and money from the Downtown Tourism Development Zone. It was unclear if the additional money could be developed out of those sources or if other public funds could be used.