Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

June 08 2015

How One City Is Completely Changing Its Convention Center District

By David McMillin

As Houston prepares to host its third Super Bowl in 2017, football fans aren’t the only ones who are excited about the city’s Texas-sized approach to urban planning. Before the big game in February, tourism officials are working on a winning plan that will transform the district surrounding the George R. Brown Convention Center and give meeting and convention planners plenty to celebrate. With a new Marriott Marquis, a new grand entrance to the center, new retail and restaurant space and a new concourse to connect exhibit halls, the plans will make Houston an even better home for group business.

The transformation will break up with the traditional approach to convention centers. WHR Architects, the firm behind the changes at the center, is embracing new-school thinking in its design decisions.

“The convention center needs to be more than a big box to collect people,” Marie Hoke, principal at WHR Architects, told the Houston Chronicle when the plans were first unveiled. “The goal is to break it down to a more human scale and offer more amenities to the building users and visitors to the district.”

WATCH: Get A Live Look At The Convention Center Construction

Using The Exterior To Elevate The Attendee Experience

Today’s meetings industry isn’t just about what’s inside the convention center; what’s outside can have a big impact on attendees, too.

“Providing outdoor spaces at conferences and events is all about well-being — the emotional, cognitive and physical experiences of attendees,” Libby Ferin, Director, Global Brand Events and Experience Design, Steelcase, says. “Getting a few minutes of daylight or fresh air can refresh attendees’ minds and prepare them for the next session.”

The leaders behind the overhaul are making sure attendees will be able to find those opportunities to refresh, too. The Avenida de las Americas, the street that runs in front of the convention center, will be narrowed to make room for a bigger outdoor plaza space that will connect attendees at the center to the Discovery Green park across the street. In an era where attendees are increasingly looking for opportunities to spend more time outside the traditional four walls of ballrooms and exhibit halls, this natural component is crucial.

One more reason to be outside in Houston the one-of-a-kind, Texas-shaped lazy river and infinity pool at the soon-to-be-completed Marriott Marquis.

Seeing An Early Return On The Investment

While the plans will not be completed until the fall of 2016, the new district is already capturing more attention from meeting planners. In fact, the organizers of a 25,000-attendee robotics competition recently signed a four-year deal with Houston, citing the convention center district renovation as a major factor in the decision.

Interested in learning more about hosting your next conference in Houston? Click here to learn why so many meeting planners have Houston at the top of their lists.


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