San Jose (Calif.) McEnery Convention Center Unveils $130 Million Expansion

October 14, 2013

A Bugs Bunny Symphony performance at the black-tie gala and a community celebration marked the official Oct. 10-11 grand opening of the San Jose McEnery Convention Center’s renovation and expansion.

“The ‘new’ San Jose Convention Center advances downtown San Jose’s position as a premier convention destination and will help San Jose attract even more local, national and international events to spur economic activity and generate new tax revenues for our community,” said Mayor Chuck Reed.

The expanded facility features additional 125,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including a 35,000 sq. ft. ballroom, and now offers a total of 550,000 sq. ft. of usable space.

The $130 million project was funded through a dedicated hotel tax voted by San Jose hoteliers in 2009. By legal requirement, the tax can only be used to support capital improvements at the convention center and includes ongoing revenue for future capital needs.

Across the street from The Tech Museum of Innovation, the new main entrance features the Idea Tree, an interactive art installation by Soo-in Yang, where the public can leave a short voice message and hear it turn into sounds rustling through the canopy.

“We’re in the heart of the Silicone Valley, and we have a lot of high-tech companies as clients, so the level of expectations is very high,” said Karolyn Kirchgesler, Team San Jose’s CEO. “Google has already had an event here.”

Inside, the new convention center is airy and modern, with reclaimed redwood ceilings and lots of open space. Networking areas have been transformed with sit steps and plenty of plugs. Wi-Fi is free throughout the downtown, making it easy to stay connected.

The building is expected to get a Silver LEED from the U.S. Green Building Council rating thanks to the new recycling program, the use of LED lighting and the incorporation of crushed concrete from the old MLK library that was demolished to make room for the expansion.

“Many of the suggestions by our client advisory board became a reality,” Kirchgesler said. She also noted that her team has already booked 178 events that will utilize the expansion, a third of which had never been to San Jose. “I think it’s a great testament,” she added.

With a newly remodeled Hilton San Jose adjacent to the convention center and several other hotels within a block, it’s tempting to just stay put. But the walkable downtown invites an early-morning stroll across the green Plaza de Cesar Chavez for fresh croissants at the Bijan Bakery or bacon-maple doughnuts at Psycho Donuts.

For breakfast with a view, groups can take over the private dining space at the Silicon Valley Capital Club, a private business club on the 17th floor of the Knight Ridder Building.

Executives craving a thoughtful pairing of local California wines and sumptuous farm-to-table bites also can indulge at the Village California Bistro at the bustling and urban Santana Row shopping and dining destination.

The downtown is home to more than 100 software companies, but it’s not all about the geeky vibe here. The Center for the Performing Arts and Montgomery Theater are across the street from the convention center.

The historic Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph, with its gorgeous stained-glass windows, also is two blocks away. Check out the new 3D online portal that offers a glimpse of the top attractions, as well as an inside look at the convention center.

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