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Puerto Rico Convention Center district development picks up pace

Puerto Rico Convention Center district
With conventions and exhibitions drawing up to 14,000 visitors at a time the world-class Puerto Rico Convention Center Pedro Rosselló  has become a prime meeting facility within the Americas. To-date the Puerto Rico Convention Center has hosted more than 150 delegations and has been the site of more than 20 ‘citywide conventions.’ A recent citywide group, the Society of Critical Care Medicine, hosted its annual congress at the Center, using eight properties within San Juan to host the delegation of more than 6,000 attendees and providing an infusion of over $14 million dollars into the local economy.

“We have one of the most visually-stunning, well-designed and well-managed convention facilities in the world,” stated Milton Segarra, president and CEO, Puerto Rico Convention Bureau . “As the District continues to take shape, new amenities and offerings will provide delegates with a distinctive and memorable Puerto Rico experience that will create buzz among conventioneers as well as leisure travelers.”

The 580,000 square foot Puerto Rico Convention Center is the largest facility of its kind in the Caribbean offering the latest technology in the region. The Center features a 152,700 sq. ft. exhibition hall divisible into three individual exposition spaces, as well as a 39,500 sq. ft. Grand Ballroom, the largest in the Caribbean. The Center also offers 36,400 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 15 separate meeting rooms on two levels, which can be divided into 28 breakout rooms.

Conceived as a way to widen the Island’s successful tourism industry with increased group and business travel, the focus now is on development within the Puerto Rico Convention Center District. With plans for new restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues and other elements aimed providing a distinctive convention experience, following are the latest updates as development continues toward completion of this multi-use urban waterfront project.

Headquarter Hotel, More Rooms to Follow
The 503-room Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino  which opened in 2009 is located adjacent to the Puerto Rico Convention Center and serves as the Center’s headquarter hotel. With a 35,000 square foot conference center, the largest hotel ballroom space in San Juan and a variety of outdoor function space, the hotel complements the Puerto Rico Convention Center’s offerings and provides a luxurious ‘urban oasis’ experience for convention delegates and guests.

Plans are in the works to add three more properties to the District. Currently under construction is the 126-room Hyatt House San Juan. The first Hyatt House in the Caribbean, the $28.7 million property is expected to open in late 2014 and will offer studio, one and two bedroom kitchen suites. Two additional properties are currently in the planning stages, including a 252-room Courtyard by Marriott and a yet-to-be-named property that will bring an additional 200+ rooms to the District. 
There are approximately 8,000 guestrooms within eight miles of the Center in San Juan, including the Condado and Isla Verde tourist zones, the financial district of Miramar and historic Old San Juan.

Other major meeting properties nearby the Convention Center include the Caribe Hilton offering 910 guestrooms and 65,000 square feet of meeting and function space; and the Condado Plaza Hilton, a 570-room property with 41,000 square feet of meeting and function space, all located in the Condado tourist zone. 

Other meeting properties in the Condado area include the Best Western Plus, Condado Palm Inn & Suites; San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino; Condado Vanderbilt; Doubletree by Hilton San Juan; La Concha, A Renaissance Resort; the Radisson Ambassador Plaza and the San Juan Beach Hotel.

Also located just outside the District are several smaller properties catering to delegates and business travelers. This includes the 140-room Courtyard by Marriott San Juan Miramar, with two meeting rooms able to accommodate up to fifty people for meetings and functions, the CIQALA Luxury Home Suites featuring modern, condo-style rooms within walking distance to the Convention Center and the Hotel Miramar, a 50-room boutique hotel with rooftop pool, on-site dining and close proximity to many area attractions.

In the business district of Bayamon, the San Miguel Plaza Hotel offers 8,000 sq. ft. of meeting space as well as other services and amenities for corporate travelers. Old San Juan, just five minutes from the Center, offers the Sheraton Old San Juan, with 240 guestrooms and 5,800 sq. ft. of meeting space and Hotel El Convento, a 58-room property in a former Carmelite Convent featuring 8,000 sq. ft. of function space and part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection.

District Elements Taking Shape
In addition to the Center and Sheraton property, the Puerto Rico Convention Center District is comprised of beautiful promenades and walkways, surrounded by fountains and views of San Juan Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean.

Restaurants within the District include Texas de Brazil, part of a chain of well-known churrasquerias (Brazilian steakhouses), as well as Ficus, a casual outdoor dining spot featuring Mexican fare. In addition to three dining options at the Sheraton that includes Choices, the District Lounge and a Pool Bar & Grille, the property also is home to China Club, a restaurant located just outside of the hotel’s popular casino offering Chinese and Japanese fare. Plans are underway to add more restaurants, shops and nightlife spots within the District, with construction beginning within the year.

Another key element of the District in development is the World Trade Center San Juan. The World Trade Center will provide international business activities and a place for delegates, local business executives and entrepreneurs to come together for research, education, global enterprise matchmaking and advocacy. Part of a $36 million investment into the District, plans calls for 216,000 square feet of office space, 32,000 square feet of retail space and the addition of 500 parking spaces. The first phase will include 100,000 square feet of office space, 18,000 square feet of commercial space and 156 parking spaces.

“The Puerto Rico Convention Center District project promotes economic development for the island and is the first phase of constructing office space within the District,” stated Victor Suárez, executive director, Puerto Rico Convention Center District Authority and Puerto Rico Ports Authority. “As we enter this phase of development, we seek to provide a platform that supports convention activity in Puerto Rico and which fosters local and international trade.”

Expanding Waterfront Access

Plans to link the Puerto Rico Convention Center District to Old San Juan are already in development with the completion of the first phase of the Bahía Urbana  project. Inaugurated in May 2013, the first phase of the project includes a park-like promenade along the San Juan harbor with seating areas, sculptures and an open-air restaurant called Café 8 which features specials every day of the week. Other elements that are in operation include an amphitheater with regularly-scheduled free and ticketed live entertainment events, a trapeze school, as well as water taxis that provide passage across the San Juan harbor. Nearby in Hato Rey, the Trocadero Diverplex, a food and entertainment development that’s also part of the Bahia Urbana project, has opened with three restaurants.

Future plans for the project include a government reception center, a shopping village, residential homes and office space will also be incorporated into the project with other elements such as watersport operators for jet skis or kayaks and helicopter rides under consideration.

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