FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. — General contractor Balfour Beatty has signed a $780 million agreement with developer Matthews Southwest, making Balfour Beatty the design-build lead for the over $1 billion expansion of the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale. The project will add 525,000 square feet of meeting space to the complex, plus a 29-story, 800-room Omni Hotel.
Located on Florida’s southeastern coast approximately 25 miles north of Miami, the completed convention center will total 1.2 million square feet. The expanded property will include 350,000 square feet of contiguous exhibition space, a 65,000-square-foot waterfront ballroom, modern technology, new dining concepts, enhanced water taxi access and a waterfront plaza with public access.
The Omni Hotel will add 73,000 square feet of meeting and ballroom space; multiple restaurant options including a rooftop bar; an 11,000-square-foot, full-service spa and fitness center; and over 30,000 square feet of pool decks. The hotel will be positioned along the city’s famed Intracoastal Waterway with a scenic view of the Atlantic Ocean.
Matthews Southwest has called on London-based firm Balfour Beatty for projects in the United States before. The company was hired by Matthews Southwest to build the Omni convention center hotel in Dallas and a residential high-rise development in Miami.
In 2015, Broward’s Board of County Commissioners selected Matthews Southwest, which has headquarters in Texas, Canada and Dubai, to lead the expansion. Other partners on the project include Stantec, Nunzio Marc DeSantis Architects and Fentress Architects.
The upgraded convention center and hotel are designed to achieve LEED Gold criteria. Enabling projects and site work will continue through the spring of 2020, followed by the full construction, which is scheduled to conclude in the spring of 2023.
The project has changed its scope since the original announcement in 2015, according to the Sun-Sentinel, the city’s daily newspaper. Total cost estimates have increased from $900 million to over $1 billion, and plans to keep the convention center open during construction were scrapped. The center is expected to host no events from February 2020 to November 2021.
According to the Sun-Sentinel report, the county will issue bonds to pay for the project. Hotel tax dollars are planned to pay for the $584 million convention center itself, while hotel revenues will pay for the $491 million Omni.
— Jeff Shaw