Baltimore comes in right behind Boston in a City Journal article taking cities to task for pouring millions of public dollars into convention centers despite “a nationwide surplus of empty meeting facilities, struggling convention centers, and vacant hotel rooms.”
The author, Steven Malanga, holds Charm City up as a prime example:
“Hoping to help its limping convention center, Baltimore paid $300 million to build a city-owned convention hotel, which opened in 2008. The hotel lost $11 million last year and has barely been able to pay its employees or its debt service,” writes Malanga, author of the 2010 book “Shakedown.”
“Yet Baltimore is now considering a massive $900 million public-private expansion that would add a downtown arena, another convention hotel, and 400,000 feet of new convention space,” Malanga writes, noting that the projected cost in public money is $400 million.
(The mismatch between those two numbers comes because developer Willard Hackerman has said he would lead a private investor group to foot the $500 million bill for the arena part of the plan.)
The Brew raised some of these same questions in a 5/27/11 analysis piece – “Super-sized convention center: a meal Baltimore could skip?”
While $900 million may sound impressive (and could help many ailing neighborhood facilities in Baltimore, such as public pools, recreation centers and dilapidated city school), the amount pales in comparison to what Malanga says Boston tourism officials want to spend to double the size of their struggling convention center: