Politics

Private partnership recommended for LA Convention Center expansion

Kevin Booth, left, and Brittney Phillips are dressed as Meng Huo and Zhu Rong from the video game Dynasty Warriors 7 during the Anime Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Aaron Wilson, right, came dressed as the WWE wrestler Booker T.
Kevin Booth, left, and Brittney Phillips are dressed as Meng Huo and Zhu Rong from the video game Dynasty Warriors 7 during the Anime Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Aaron Wilson, right, came dressed as the WWE wrestler Booker T.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

The Los Angeles City Council had tentatively approved an old-school method of expanding the Convention Center — borrowing money, hiring a contractor and then operating it. But a top city administrator this week recommended putting the project into private hands. 

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana recommends a public-private partnership to take advantage of downtown's building boom. The private partner would design, build, finance, operate and maintain the center, plus businesses and homes on the city land. It would also reap much of the profit.

By putting the Convention Center project in the hands of companies that have the expertise and financing to include homes and businesses in the mix, Santana said, the city could incur less debt and end up with a more vibrant project that better fits into the booming South Park landscape.

"Under this model, what it allows the city to do is really share the risk of building a convention center with a third party," Santana said.

However, success of this kind of project depends on the city finding a partner through competitive bidding that is stable enough to see the project through many years of operation. 

Santana's report recommending the partnership method was released Wednesday. He said the council would likely decide which method to pursue early next year.

This financing model is becoming more common. The Long Beach City Council recently decided on a private partner to build and operate its new civic center.