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ATLANTA-Long-time local architect-developer John C. Portman Jr. and his son Jeffrey Portman, principals in AmericasMart-Atlanta, have filed preliminary expansion plans with the Atlanta Regional Commission for a 1.5-million addition to their 6.2-million-sf, 58-year-old international trade emporium at 240 Peachtree St. Downtown.

The fourth building at the three-building complex is expected to break ground later this year, retail sources in a position to know tell GlobeSt.com. The Portmans couldn’t be reached by GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline to learn the estimated development cost of the addition to the largest wholesale retail exhibition campus of its kind in the US and one of the largest globally, according to trade publication sources.

The addition would bring the total exhibition space to 7.7 million sf. That compares with about 2.8 million sf at the $900-million McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago which bills itself as the largest commercial exhibition space facility in the Northern Hemisphere.

Metro area construction industry sources familiar with convention center exhibition space projects in major US markets tell GlobeSt.com the mart’s addition will have a hard construction cost of at least $175 per sf or a total $262 million. When GlobeSt.com first reported the expansion plans in 2004, construction sources had estimated a $200 million hard cost or about $100 per sf for a previously planned two-million-sf addition.

The AmericasMart expansion plans come as Downtown readies for its greatest commercial, residential and retail redevelopment period in at least 25 years, according to Downtown supporter groups who monitor the projects as they are filed with city and state agencies.

The 80-year-old John Portman started the mart concept in 1957 with a single furniture market and has grown the business into one of the world’s largest trade marts for retailers, according to industry sources. The existing center’s first phase opened in 1961. The furniture and home furnishings product category is considered by product buyers and traders as the centerpiece of AmericasMart.

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