Would it be a dud or a gem?
A proposed conference and meeting center near Los Angeles International Airport could play host to more than 300 events and generate $26 million in additional annual revenues for the airport region, according to a report sent by boosters to the L.A. City Council late last month.
However, the conference center also would fail unless additional restaurants, shops and theaters open within walking distance, according to the market study by L.A. Inc. and the Gateway to L.A. Business Improvement District.
"A conference center just plunked down the way the area is now would not be viable meeting planners won't even consider it," said Michael Collins, executive vice president of L.A. Inc. "However, if lots of dining, entertainment and retail options opened up, it could be a real win-win."
City officials, hotel owners and Century Corridor business boosters have long pushed for a "mini-convention center" near Los Angeles International Airport as a way to jump start a revitalization of the much-maligned corridor. They envision a conference center with about 50,000 square feet of exhibit space, up to 25,000 square feet of small meeting rooms and up to 25,000 square feet for banquet functions.
But, so far, the conference center has never progressed beyond the talking stage. No developer has come forward and no site has been selected, although the area south of Long Term Parking Lot C (west of Airport Boulevard and north of Century Boulevard) is most often mentioned.
Now, the proposed overhaul of Los Angeles International Airport may provide an opportunity to build the conference center as part of a revamp of the adjacent Century Corridor.
"We hope that the momentum that's being generated from modernization of the airport can carry over into bringing in these needed amenities to the Century Boulevard Corridor," said Laurie Hughes, executive director of the Gateway to L.A. Business Improvement District.
The idea is that companies and other groups would like the idea of holding meetings right next to one of the world's major airports and not have to worry about getting people to distant hotels across crowded streets and freeways.
"It would be perfect for a shareholders meeting for a mid-sized or large company: people come in the night before from all over the world for a one-day meeting, go to some entertainment in the evening following the meeting and then fly out the next morning," Collins said.
Meanwhile, owners of the 13 airport-area hotels that are mostly along Century Boulevard would be able to charge more for rooms in what is now one of the cheapest markets in the region. They in turn would turn over more bed-tax dollars to the city.
"It's a win-win-win for everybody if we can do it," said Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the airport area.
Nothing will happen, though, until details of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's airport overhaul plans are released next year. Potential sites for an airport-area conference center would likely be dictated by how the various airport-related facilities such as long-term parking, a consolidated car rental complex and mass-transit lines are reconfigured.
Furthermore, Rosendahl wants to tie the conference center to new stations on a Green Line light rail extension to the airport. But last month, Lydia Kennard, Los Angeles World Airports general manager, questioned the cost and feasibility of extending the Green Line.
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