Producers See Javits Center Expansion as "Compelling," Money-Saving Site

By Anna Sekula August 24, 2010, 12:23 PM EDT

Called the Link, the 30-foot-wide passageway that connects Javits Center North to the main building was used as lounge space by the show FAME.

Photo: Courtesy of Business Journals Inc.

What was originally envisioned during former governor George Pataki's administration—and subsequently subject to numerous revisions and budget cuts—has finally come to fruition: a bigger and arguably better Javits Center. The spanking new Javits Center North, an expansion of the 14-year-old exhibition hall, debuted August 1 to about 10,000 attendees at Business Journal Inc.'s FAME expo. For many show producers and contractors, the development has been a long time coming, and the much-anticipated site, for the most part, is seen as a positive addition.

Candida Romanelli, vice president of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association and director of the New York International Auto Show, welcomes Javits Center North and the renovations currently under way, especially as the 110-year-old show—which draws one million visitors, the largest audience for a U.S. auto show—continues to expand.

“We have been a real proponent of the expansion.: From the early days we were hoping for and supporting an expansion because the Javits Center needed it,” Romanelli said. “We need to utilize it because we're facing three different phases [of renovations to the original center] on level three and we have to be able to put those displaced companies somewhere. So we're actively seeking one company to take the whole hall over.” In fact, the reason the pavilion opened before the renovation plan started was so large shows could use it while construction blocked access to certain areas.

The space comes with its own set of amenities, including hang points on a 20- by 20-foot grid with a capacity of 3,000 pounds per point, loading docks on the facility's west side with direct access to the floor, dedicated restrooms and food service areas, and a ceiling that is 25 feet high at its lowest point. “I think the hall is beautiful and offers a terrific venue. It's brand new, the roof doesn't leak, and it has got its own loading dock area, which, with a show like ours, will translate into a company saving money,” Romanelli said.

The cost effectiveness of such facilities is a facet Metropolitan Exposition Service account executive and exhibit sales manager Steve LoPorto appreciates. “Docking areas are a big problem in New York. Docks are murderous, especially at some hotels, where it's a small, tight box that makes it difficult to maneuver, like threading a needle, and you need experienced drivers to navigate it. But with the open docking area at the pavilion, it's straight in, straight out.”

The lack of columns and the clean design is also a time- and money-saver in terms of adding decorative elements like carpeting, furniture, and signage. “You just don't feel like you're in a convention space—it feels like one of those box studios—and you can pretty much transform it into anything you want. You don't have to mask out any awkward elements, like columns, walls, and garage doors,” said Bobby Taylor, owner of Taylor Creative, a production firm and furniture rental company that worked on the August FAME show. “I think it will lend itself to [all types of functions], especially for aesthetic-driven trade shows or events. Plus, it's nice to see a trade show space that has a lot of natural light to it.”

Much of the natural light comes through the 30-foot-wide corridor, called the Link, which connects Javits Center North to the main building. Large glass garage-style doors stretch across the east wall, and red west walls lend a shot of color. While this section is really only a walkway, many see it as something that can be used several ways. “It's a pretty compelling space, and although it doesn't lend itself to a large display area for us, it's a wonderful area for companies in the north hall to use as a preamble or introduction to the main space,” Romanelli said. LoPorto added, “The whole ceiling is basically a hang point, one big grid,” and having doors that roll up is convenient for staffers handling hand-carry items.

However, producers and planners have some concerns, namely the distance between the pavilion and the central expo hall. “I think that they did a really great job with it, and now it's really just a matter of bringing to light that this hall exists and raising the comfort level of a future exhibitor,” Romanelli said. “I see it as becoming a destination, and that's what we're hoping a company will see and recognize. But we get questions like, 'How are we going to point people in the right direction? How are they going to know where to come?' These are all very important questions. We may need some dispensation as to directional signage or things of that nature because this is something new and it's scary. I have confidence because I know it's going to be fantastic, but it's a leap for some of our clients.”

Lance Fensterman, show runner for New York Comic Con and vice president of Reed Exhibitions, explained that after a recent walkthrough of the space, which he described as “outstanding,” he doesn't plan to use it for the October run of the pop culture consumer expo, but has a film studio interested in the site for another event. “We currently do not plan to use it for exhibition space even though [New York Comic Con] is sold out on the show floor. The feeling is that it is too far from the rest of the event and traffic flow would suffer because of it. However, we are thinking of 2011 and utilizing it as a pavilion that is themed and a strong enough draw to bring people over. We may even go so far as to have a separately ticketed event within the space.”

What will hopefully drive more traffic to this new addition, and Javits in general, is the installation of a No. 7 subway station across the street.

Once the Javits Center's upgrade is completed in 2013, the entire site will offer more than 800,000 square feet of exhibition space. But even with this expansion, New York still lags behind other cities like Chicago, Las Vegas, and Orlando in terms of the country's largest convention centers. “It's a shame that we don't have a larger facility, because I think New York deserves one,” Romanelli said. “I think it's an incredible city and we should have a convention center that reflects that. But, having said that, I think we're moving in the right direction and the renovation and expansion we have now is definitely better than where we were years ago. Although it's not a continuous space that runs two blocks, it's a step in the right direction.”

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