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New $400M Expansion Plan For Boston Convention Center Moves Forward

The Boston Convention & Exhibition Center

The operator of Boston's largest convention center is moving forward with its third attempt to expand the property with a new $400M plan. 

The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority board approved a master-plan revision Thursday to expand the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in South Boston, the Boston Globe reported. MCCA was also authorized to hire an architect to begin designing the expansion. 

The project will showcase "The Pavilion on D," a 75K SF multipurpose space, a new entryway off D Street and a deck overlooking the Lawn on D, according to the Globe. 

Overall, about 200K SF of "sellable" convention-related space would be added to the existing 700K SF at the property. Construction on the expansion is expected to begin in 2023 and be completed by 2026. 

This new plans differ in many ways from past ones. MCCA decided to leave a potential sale of Hynes Convention Center out of the funding strategy, and it plans to use tourism taxes to pay for the entire construction of the expansion. The MCCA has also removed plans for a new exhibition hall, and it has moved primary construction to D Street. 

In 2015, a $1B expansion of the BCEC was halted by Gov. Charlie Baker due to its cost. In 2019, the expansion was revisited by MCCA Executive Director David Gibbons when he presented a $500M expansion plan, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, plans were halted a second time.

Baker has been vocal about plans to sell Hynes in hopes that the BCEC expansion will create enough space to hold overlapping conventions and events. He has said that selling Hynes would also free up coveted space on Back Bay's Boylston Street.

The Hynes property hasn't been updated since 1988 and would need around $200M over the next 10 years in order to maintain its current operating state, but Baker said the site could bring more than 2M of new development. 

The plans to sell the space have received pushback from the community. Earlier this month, members of the UNITE HERE Local 26 met outside of the convention center to protest the sale, arguing it would eliminate the hospitality jobs of those hit hardest during the pandemic.

Earlier this week, state lawmakers delayed plans to redevelop the Hynes Convention Center by requiring an economic development study that would be due by the end of 2023. This would push the decision on the sale back to 2024,  after Baker has left office.