San Francisco's Multi-billion Dollar Construction Boom

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San Francisco's Multi-billion Dollar Construction Boom

By Rowland Stiteler | Oct 1, 2018

In terms of vital infrastructure for meeting, convention and trade show destinations, there’s nothing more important than convention centers, hotels and airports. And San Francisco is in the midst of a multibillion-dollar construction boom, with almost US$3 billion in facilities topping out in the Moscone Center and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) alone.

In March, the center held a topping out ceremony for a $551 million expansion that adds 157,000 square feet of flexible event space, including a 50,000-square-foot, column-free ballroom. The addition creates more than 504,000 gross square feet to be used as contiguous exhibition space or flexible meeting space. The facility can be configured to have more than 80 meeting rooms.

The construction boom has been accompanied by an all-time high in bookings for the city’s 33,000 hotel rooms, 22,000 of which are within walking distance of the Moscone Center.

“I am proud to say that the project is on time and on budget and we are looking forward to the grand opening ribbon cutting, scheduled for Jan. 3, 2019,” says Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association. “San Francisco welcomes more than 25 million visitors each year, and over 20 percent of those visitors pass through Moscone Center.”

He says that as of March 2018 there were more than 1.1 million definite room nights on the books for 2019, more than any other year in history. The record number of hotel room night bookings has been accompanied by record convention bookings.


“We now have a record number of new bookings for the Moscone Center for events that are coming after the new expansion is complete,” says Laurie Armstrong Gossy, senior director, global PR and media relations for the San Francisco Travel Association. “It has just taken off like crazy. It’s already popular and it hasn’t even opened yet.”

As of early August, the big events booked for the Moscone Center in the first three months after Jan. 3 include: the Winter Fancy Food Show of the Specialty Foods Association, Jan. 13-15, 19,000 attendees; the National Automobile Dealers Association Convention and Expo, Jan. 24-27, 22,000 attendees; SPIE Photonics West, Feb. 2-7, 20,000 attendees; IBM Think 2019, Feb. 12-15, 30,000 attendees; and the RSA Conference 2019, March 12-15, 42,000 attendees.

Adrienne Fisher, CMP, CTSM (MPI Northern California Chapter), executive director, corporate events for About Face Productions Inc. based in Concord, Calif. (about 40 miles east of San Francisco), says one of the biggest benefits of the expanded space at the Moscone Center is that it will be able to accommodate more groups.

“The fact that the Moscone Center is expanding is going to be a huge help I think for anybody who is outside San Francisco planning events and would like to get their foot in the door,” she says. “With more space at the center I think there will be a bit more availability, and that’s going to be a huge help for people who want to bring their events into the city.”

The convention center expansion project also includes the addition of a San Francisco Visitor Information Center staffed by San Francisco Travel, open to attendees and all visitors. The expansion of Moscone Center is designed to be LEED Platinum certified. Sustainability features include the largest rooftop solar array on a building in San Francisco, generating up to 19.4 percent of the building’s energy needs. The center will be net-positive on water, with an onsite water treatment plant, and will be a zero-emission building. Behind-the-scenes benefits include an expanded kitchen; expanded freight access for move-in, move-out; built-in show offices; and an improved public realm in areas around the center.

In June, SFO celebrated the topping out of Terminal 1, commemorating the placement of the highest steel beam in the structure. The $2.4 billion project, scheduled to be completed in phases from 2019 to 2022, creates an entirely new concourse and Boarding Area B, along with a centralized security checkpoint, a state-of-the-art consolidated baggage handling system, dining and retail concessions and post-security connecting walkways.

Upon completion, Boarding Area B will have 25 gates, including seven “swing” gates that can accommodate international arrivals by providing direct access to the U.S. Customs & Border Protections Federal Inspection Area. Connecting walkways located post-security will provide easy access to International Boarding Area A and Boarding Area C.

The design of the new facility will have a more open feeling with lots of glass through which people in the terminal can see takeoffs and landings on the runway, as well as a new air traffic control tower designed to not just be highly functional but make an architectural statement. Terminal 1, built in the 1960s, is one of the oldest concourses at the airport and the latest on the replacement schedule.

Also under development is a new airport-owned and privately managed luxury hotel, the Grand Hyatt at SFO. Prominently located at the entrance to SFO, the 4.2-acre site is close to terminal buildings and parking garages, with access to U.S. Highway 101.

The new property is set to be completed by July 2019 and will offer 351 guest rooms and 15,200 square feet of meeting space.

In addition to the new airport hotel, several other major hotel projects are under way in downtown San Francisco, with scheduled openings from later this year through 2022. They include the Moxy Hotel by Marriott at Fisherman’s Wharf with 76 guest rooms (opening June 2022), Langham Place with 200 guest rooms (opening 2021), Waldorf-Astoria with 171 guest rooms (opening 2020 or 2021), Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco with 271 guest rooms ($20 million renovation completed in March 2018) and the InterContinental San Francisco with 550 guest rooms and 14 suites (multimillion-dollar renovation by late 2018).



Rowland Stiteler
Rowland Stiteler

Rowland Stiteler, a veteran meeting industry journalist, is a writer and editor for The Meeting Professional.