PORTLAND-Expansion of the Oregon Convention Center will begin next February with the traditional, ceremonial groundbreaking, but it will cost a bit more than originally expected. New calculations show the 150,000-sf expansion costing closer to $116 million rather than the previously estimated $106 million, in part due to a six-month delay while officials waited to see if voters would pass Measure 93. The expansion will be almost entirely financed through an increase in Multnomah County lodging and car rental taxes, and Measure 93, which did not pass, required voter approval of most public fee and tax increases.

Construction is expected to be a two-year process, with completion slated for March 2003. The new wing will be on the convention center’s surface parking lot, on the south end of the existing structure. The expansion is expected to help the convention center attract larger conventions. It’s also expected to help increase vacancy rates that have been steadily dropping for the past few years as thousands of new hotel rooms have come online. Several hundred more rooms are still on the way, including the Hilton Hotel addition in downtown Portland and a Residence Inn by Marriott at Riverplace, just south of downtown.

The six-month delay is responsible for about $4 million of the estimated $10 million increase in costs. Another $4 million is attributable to the decision to ax plans for an aboveground parking structure in favor of underground parking. The remaining $2 million comes from the city’s requirement for more windows and other amenities to be added to the project. The Metro Council, the regional government that oversees the convention center, is scheduled to give its approval to the changes Dec. 14.

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