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ERIE, PA-The Erie Bayfront Convention Center Complex has opened its doors this month, one of the largest attempts to spark Pennsylvania’ economy, according to a release. The $44-million project is part of a more than $100.9-million waterfront redevelopment project. A dedication ceremony is planned for next week.

The 136,000-sf center on the Sassafras Pier is paired with the eight-story, 203-room Erie Sheraton Hotel, still under construction on the West Dobbins Landing adjacent to the pier. A 65-foot-high pedestrian skywalk connects the two.

“The hotel is surrounded by water on three sides. The convention center is designed to look like a ship, with mast on it,” Joan Cleland, president of Acquest Realty Advisors, tells GlobeSt.com. “The views are going to be spectacular.” The skyway’s height is not just for aesthetics: it needs to be high enough to let masted ships sail under it.

The hotel and skywalk have a combined $47.8-million price tag, the convention center is $44 million, and the parking garage is $9.1 million, for a total project cost of $100.9 million. The Erie County Bayfront Convention Center Authority is owner of the complex. White Lodging Services Corp. will manage the hotel once it’s completed.

Acquest, based in Bloomfield Hills, MI, is the development manager. It oversees construction of the convention center, hotel, parking structure and skyway, as well as site work that included rebuilding a sea wall. The Sheraton will be completed by the end of March 2008, Cleland tells GlobeSt.com.

Financing for the complex was through a $47.75-million tax-exempt bond issue, coupled with a $50.5-million state grant, and various costs picked up by various government agencies. As GlobeSt.com reported last year, the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, a Pennsylvania state government fund, provided $6.5 million to assist in the Convention Center’s construction.

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