DETROIT-Wayne County executive Robert Ficano has introduced a new, $323 million plan to expand Cobo Hall Convention Center’s exhibition space by 120,000 sf, create a no-sales-tax zone at the center and build a covered, movable walkway through part of the Downtown. The plan would boost the available convention space to 820,000 sf at the 2.4-million-sf center; with the expansion’s main function to keep the organizers of the annual North American International Auto Show from leaving Detroit.

Plans have been tossed out almost every year to expand the state’s largest convention center, but since funds are short, it’s been hard to find backers amongst the three major counties that are closest to Detroit. In 2004, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick proposed building a new convention center for $665 million, but he could not get enough buy-in to move forward. Ficano also proposed a 270,000-sf expansion for $425 million in 2006.

Now, Ficano seems to have hit on a plan that many local officials say they can live with. The details are that $200 million would be spent on renovating the entire property, $100 million would pay for the expansion, and $35 million would be used to build two moving, covered walkways to directly connect the center to hotels at the Sheraton Pontchartrain and the Marriott at the Renaissance Center.

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