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Allan

Group seeks expanded Cobo

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The proposal calls for Cobo Arena next to Cobo Center to be razed and be replaced with a 185,000-square-foot exhibit hall, 50,000-square-foot ballroom, meeting rooms, kitchen and glass atrium open to Jefferson Avenue.

Group seeks expanded Cobo

Tourism panel's $663 million upgrade adds exhibit space, but no funding is in place.

DETROIT -- A planning group is proposing a $663 million expansion of Detroit's Cobo Center that calls for increased exhibit and meeting space, two new ballrooms and massive glass walls that open up to the city's downtown district and the Detroit River.

The report also shows three possible locations for a hotel or casino, either next to Hart Plaza, at the Hotel Pontchartrain or just west of Joe Louis Arena.

The Tourism Action Group, a nonprofit group of 20 public and private officials that's been studying a possible expansion of Cobo for two years, will unveil the plan today.

The project's immediate hurdle: There's no money yet.

Financing for the project could come from private or public sources, including a possible casino operator, hotel group or both, said Jim Townsend, executive director of the Tourism Economic Development Council, which oversaw the Action Group study.

The expansion could be completed in time for the 2010 North American International Auto Show, Townsend said.

Another potential obstacle is the formation of a regional authority to operate Cobo Center, now overseen by the city of Detroit. Some exhibitors have complained that union rules at Cobo Center are cumbersome and costly.

Cobo Center's expansion is being driven by demand for added exhibit space for the auto show -- region's premier event -- as well as the annual convention of the Society of Automotive Engineers.

Auto show planners say Cobo Center's 700,000 square feet of exhibit space isn't enough to meet the growing demand for new car and truck displays.

"We certainly embrace the plan, but we need to look at setting up a regional authority to operate Cobo Center more efficiently and line up financing for the expansion," said Richard Genthe, co-chairman of the 2005 auto show and owner of Dick Genthe Chevrolet in Southgate.

Auto show planners say they would like 900,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space.

The proposed expansion plan fits the bill, bringing Cobo's exhibit space to more than 1 million square feet when the lower level Michigan Hall is added. Michigan Hall offers 100,000 square feet of space.

Walt Watkins, the Tourism Action Group's chairman and Detroit's chief development officer, said the report offers a blueprint for moving forward.

"(It) provides detailed technical information and a compelling vision of what Cobo Center could become, as either a stand-alone convention center or within a larger hotel-casino-convention center complex," he said in a statement.

Officials will begin showing the proposal to likely investors in the coming months.

Under the expansion plan, Cobo Arena next to Cobo Center would be torn down and be replaced with a 185,000-square-foot exhibit hall, 50,000-square-foot ballroom, meeting rooms, kitchen and glass atrium along Jefferson Avenue.

That work would include an expansion of Wayne Hall from 100,000 square feet to 225,000 square feet. A new food court along Atwater Drive next to the Detroit River would be added along with a 25,000-square-foot ballroom and meeting space.

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A new food court along Atwater Drive next to the Detroit River would be added with a ballroom and meeting space.

"We would tear down the current facade at Cobo and replace it with a glass fa

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The new design is definately an improvement on what we currently have. I'm still not that crazy about it. Maybe it will grow on me some more...unlike the YMCA, which I am more disappointed with each time I see it.

I still think that it would be better to build a new convention center nearby. I hate the way Cobo cuts downtown off from the Riverfront.

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