Cook Convention Center to get $175M renovation

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - City of Memphis has set a budget of $175 million for a renovation of the Memphis Cook Convention Center. 

The plan is to modernize and expand on the current buildings including the Canon Center for Performing Arts. It's all part of Mayor Jim Strickland's plan for the bicentennial Great Gateway project, which he hopes will bring more visitors to the Bluff City.

Construction is set to start in 2018 and is projected to be completed in September 2019. Both buildings will remain open during the renovation process.

Strickland said the renovations will not cost local taxpayers a dime.

"We're paying for this in two ways, via those who visit our city: through hotel/motel taxes and money from the Downtown Tourism Development Zone. This will not take away any money we use for core services like police and fire," Strickland said in a statement.

Cook Convention Center was built in the 1970s and has not undergone any major renovations since then.

"Most of those buildings back then, like ours, were just a concrete block building--not many windows, not a lot of atmosphere, not a lot of personality. This building is going to have Memphis personality," convention center president Kevin Kane said.

For the last two years there's been a plan quietly in the works to make this transformation happen, working with some of the city's biggest businesses asking them for design input.

"It's transformational inside and out. People will not recognize the building when we are finished with it," Kane said.

With more visitors in Memphis, the city will also need to add hotels--something that's been happening over the last year already.

"There's a lot of inquiries right now with new hotel development, and I expect there is going to be even more now with this announcement," Wayne Tabor with Metropolitan Memphis Hotel & Lodging Association said.

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