A new study has found an expansion of the Seaside Civic and Convention Center still is a feasible and worthwhile endeavor, although it would cost about $25 million and require a new source of funding.
The city retained C.H. Johnson Consulting, in association with Belay, a Division of POWER Engineers, at a cost of $42,000 to assess the merits of renovating and expanding the convention center. The consultants submitted the results of their financial feasibility study in early November.
The study is one in a series that have been conducted regarding the center’s possible expansion. Its recommendations were meant to provide an independent review of those made by SAG Consulting in 2009 and EHS Architecture in 2013.
According to the C.H. Johnson Consulting study, Seaside has several key characteristics and requirements necessary to support an expansion and renovation to the convention center, such as “steady population growth, low unemployment, a diversifying economy, an established hospitality industry and its reputation and success as a popular tourist destination.”
Russ Vandenberg, general manager of the convention center, said the city asked C.H. Johnson to further investigate and develop some of the recommended financing plans in the study. The consultants should submit that information to the city by the end of this month, Vandenberg said.
“Then we’ll meet again with the Seaside City Council) and present the total package,” he said.
H e expects the meeting will occur early next year. ,
The study agreed with recommendations made in the 2009 SAG study, such as constructing a new 12,000-square-foot exhibit hall; converting the Pacific Hall and Necanicum Room into a multipurpose ballroom or banquet space; adding an additional 8,830 square feet of meeting and break-out space; and additional storage space and restrooms.
The study implies an expanded facility “will be better positioned to compete effectively in the regional marketplace, by bringing its space offerings in line with its larger and newer competition.”
The study compared an expanded Seaside facility to a set of competitive regional facilities, such as the Salishan Spa & Golf Resort in Gleneden Beach, Sunriver Resort in central Oregon, Salem Convention Center, and The Riverhouse Hotel and Convention Center in Bend.
The study says a clear gap exists in the market with respect to facilities offering more than 10,000 square feet of meeting and breakout space.
In 2017, the expanded convention center could hold 109 events, or 21 more than were held in 2013, according to the study’s projections. By 2021, the center could hold about 149 events. After that, the number of events is projected to stabilize, although attendance likely will continue to increase by nearly 26,000, from 56,880 in 2017 to 82,620 in 2026.
To create the extra space, the study proposes extending the building to the west, over North Edgewood Street and into what currently is the parking lot. North Edgewood Street would be closed or realigned to the west, between First Avenue and Oceanway.
As the study notes, an expanded center could cause the loss of 40 to 50 public parking stalls, which may not negatively affect the convention center but is a concern for surrounding businesses.
To address the public’s concern, the study suggests several changes, such as realigning North Edgewood Street; making the portion of Oceanway between Columbia Street and the newly aligned North Edgewood Street an eastbound one-way street; striping the northern edge of that section of Oceanway to allow parallel parking to add an estimated 18 to 21 stalls; and striping Oceanway along the southern edge of the existing center for perpendicular parking to add an estimated 19 to 22 stalls.
Vandenberg said they also are considering other options, such as building a parking facility with upward of 500 stalls or leasing parking stalls from Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church across the street during busy months.
“It’s all based on what strategy we use for the funding source,” he said.
The estimated cost for the total expansion project is about $25 million.
The convention center runs at a deficit of $350,000. After the expansion, the center is expected to operate at a net deficit of $461,000 in 2017, $322,000 in 2021 and $317,000 in 2026, the study says.
Key elements of the study’s revenue projections include space rental, food and beverage, equipment rentals and event services, advertising and other revenue. Key elements of expense projections are salaries and wages, employee benefits, sales and marketing, general and administrative costs, utilities, maintenance and repairs, supplies, insurance and food and beverage recovery accounts.
The project would require additional funding through expanding the existing tax base or a new mechanism, according to the study. It provides a few options for a new funding mechanism, such as a strategic alliance with Cannon Beach and Astoria for destination marketing or establishing an improvement district in greater downtown Seaside that is “centered upon the convention centerand utilizing [(Tourism Improvement Fee)] revenues or a specially enacted ‘sales fee’ on retail and hotels” to fund the project and other downtown improvements.
Vandenberg said they want the consultants to provide more information on these funding options.