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BOSTON-Ever since the $800-million Boston Convention & Exhibition Center was just a germ of an idea, the fate of the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in the Back Bay, which has now become the city’s “other” convention center, has been debated.But now that the new 1.6-million-sf BCEC is scheduled to open this June on the South Boston waterfront, the future of the Hynes, which is about 500,000 sf, has become more of a pressing issue. At a panel discussion at the Hynes, which was taking place at a conference sponsored by the Urban Land Institute’s Boston chapter and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Real Estate, the issue of whether the city needs two convention centers was the topic. “Decisions need to be made,” Dick Reynolds, chairman of the Boston District Council of the Urban Land Institute, tells GlobeSt.com. “It’s an issue that needs focus because it will impact real estate in the area depending on what the Hynes is used for.”Reynolds adds that the issue is not really being dealt with on a substantive level. “Nobody is really dealing with what is going to happen to the Hynes,” he says. “The Boston Convention & Exhibition Center is there. How does the city deal with it and the Hynes? Can they co-exist and how?”One of the keynote speakers, Heywood Sanders, professor and director of public administration at the University of Texas at San Antonio, was very pessimistic about convention center business and was not supportive of the city’s efforts to get the BCEC built. But Reynolds emphasizes that the conference’s goal was to air the subject, not necessarily to reach a conclusion.Supporters of the Hynes pointed out that it is a good location for professional meetings. “People love the Back Bay,” says Reynolds. “Meetings like that won’t work at the BCEC.” Reynolds says that many of the businesspeople located in the Back Bay were insistent that the market should determine whether the city can support both centers and there was an emphasis on segmenting the market for the two facilities. The second issue that was noted at the conference was the fact that right now there is very little certainty regarding the Hynes. “Meeting planners are getting worried,” says Reynolds, who notes that the concern seems to be impacting bookings at the Hynes.

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