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$221 million reinvention of Detroit’s Cobo Conference Center unveiled



The bond-financed project is Phase III of a multi-year strategic plan to return Cobo Center to its historic role as a premier convention venue.

The Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority (DRCFA) has unveiled a three-year, $221 million plan for the reinvention of Cobo Conference & Exhibition Center, Metro Detroit’s regional convention facility. The bond-financed project is Phase III of a multi-year strategic plan to return Cobo Center to its historic role as one of North America’s premier meeting and convention venues.

In creating its strategic plan, the DRCFA focused on restoring Cobo Center’s competitiveness in the national meeting and convention landscape, revitalizing it with an updated image and improving Cobo Center’s financial viability through increased revenue opportunities and decreased costs.

“We are making the changes to Cobo Center that our customers, stakeholders and competitive research have told us are necessary to return Cobo to an industry-leading status that will assist in attracting meetings and conventions to Metro Detroit,” said Larry Alexander, chairman of the DRCFA Board of Directors. “We are not satisfied with ‘good enough.’ This plan leapfrogs Cobo Center over competitive convention centers and gives Metro Detroit a cornerstone facility worthy of our region’s proven ability to host world-class events.”

The most visible upgrades to Cobo Center include:

• The reinvention of Cobo Arena as a 40,000-square foot ballroom with supporting meeting, pre-function and back-of-house spaces. This new ballroom will feature a glass wall and an open-air terrace facing Hart Plaza and Detroit’s downtown to the east, as well as pre-function space with a panoramic view of the Detroit River and the international border with Canada to the south.

• The creation of a new “signature space” for Cobo Center in the form of a spacious three story glass atrium that links the main floor of the venue with a new entrance that faces the Detroit River, bringing the lower-level exhibition space more naturally into the flow of a meeting or convention and linking Cobo Center to Detroit’s revitalized riverfront more fully.

• Significant renovation to the building’s primary façade on the east side facing downtown Detroit. The primary element will be a high-tech “media mesh” that will function as a giant digital signboard welcoming conventions and guests to Detroit and to the new Cobo Center. Additional elements include a new entrance to the recently developed food court, improved protection from the elements for arriving guests and increased use of glass in exterior walls to tie events at Cobo Center more closely into the surrounding city.

• Reconfiguration of most meeting and breakout room space throughout the venue, especially along the south side of the facility along the Detroit River, to meet the needs of today’s meeting and event planners. The majority of the exterior walls along the river will be replaced by high-efficiency glass walls to take advantage of Cobo’s riverside location and update Detroit’s signature river skyline view for the 21st Century.

In addition to these major updates to Cobo Center, many other significant changes will be made to the facility that will improve customer experience, reduce customer costs, improve reliability, enhance safety and security, improve operational efficiency, save energy, reduce environmental impact and integrate Cobo Center better into the surrounding downtown.

These changes include:

• New communication systems
• Improved access control with three main entrance points
• Parking enhancements, including a 20 percent parking space increase
• More efficient environmental systems
• Enclosure of the loading dock
• Creation of an additional loading dock ramp to street level
• Additional electrical provision capabilities in exhibition spaces
• Finish upgrades, including wall coverings and carpet throughout
• Creation of service corridors
• New CCTV and fire protection systems



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