The Orange County Convention Center recently unveiled its master plan for the next twenty years.
With over 7 million sq. ft. the convention center doesn’t need to just keep adding more halls, but instead address other issues that arise from hosting some of the nation’s largest conventions. The largest expansion planned over the next 20 years is a new 130,000 sq. ft. multipurpose hall in the North/South Building. That new hall will address the lack of space for the largest of conventions and events.
Also in the North/South Building will be a new connector corridor that will allow easier access to different halls within the building. The connector will be designed to double as its’ own convention space for smaller gatherings.
Over in the much older East/West Building a number of new enhancements will allow for the convention center to interact with I-Drive better. An activity hub along the West Building’s main entrance will allow for cafes and outdoor seating that passing tourists can use. The outdoor space would also be available for smaller private banquet events. The West Building will also get a new parking structure that will provide 1,500 spaces, covering what is currently loading docks.
The flat floored Chapin Theatre will have its 2,643 seats removed to allow for new uses for the theatre, such as ballroom style galas.
The most intriguing addition planned is also the one with the fewest details. The West Building would get what officials only called a “unique space” that would provide a new, luxury, one-of-a-kind events space.
Over the summer, the I-Drive Steering Committee, the same steering committee that announced these more recent convention center plans, announced plans for a 28 acre lot just south of the convention center. Under the proposed plan, which has yet to be formalized or approved, the 28 acre plot would include 300 residential units, 300,000 sq. ft. of retail including a proposed Target, office space and a parking garage. The new mixed use development would link to the nearby proposed mag-lev station that will link I-Drive to MCO. A second mag-lev route will circle the convention center district connecting the center to area hotels. That route will open after the initial MCO to OCCC route is built.
Proposals for the county property south of the convention center also include a baseball stadium or other type of sports venue that will help address the need for a large gathering option that could be used for keynote events at expos. Currently the I-Drive district has no large space for such events outside of the flat floored expo halls at the convention center itself.
All of the proposals are far from realized, but the vision that has taken place over the past few years has caused this proposal to be formulated and rise to the top. This is the most important step in what the future of the convention center will include. The proposals still don’t have funding in place but it’s expected that the Tourist Development Tax will help finance the plans.