Convention centre expansion to cost almost $10 M more than estimated

Andrew Robinson
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Tender awarded to Quebec company Pomerleau Inc.

The City of St. John’s has awarded the main construction tender for the expansion of the St. John’s Convention Centre.

Pomerleau Inc., a company headquartered in Quebec, submitted the lowest bid amongst four received by the city, at $52.7 million. When first announced by the city in August 2011, the expansion had an estimated cost of $43.2 million.

Both the federal and provincial governments are each set to kick in $15 million for the project. While the tender awarded may exceed the initially announced figure by $9.5 million, Coun. Sandy Hickman says taxpayers will not be burdened by its cost.

The city’s $22.7-million share will be covered by an accommodation tax of four per cent that is applied to every hotel room in

St. John’s.

“The taxpayer of St. John’s will not be paying for the expansion of this building — that’s very critical to point out,” said Hickman, who is city council’s liaison on the convention centre project committee.

“This flexibility has allowed us to take a larger expansion than we may have, and indeed take care of some rising costs that have happened, naturally, over the last couple of years.”

Council voted unanimously to approve the tender at Monday’s public meeting.

Several properties have since been purchased and torn down in anticipation of construction work on the expansion.

Hickman said the full cost of the project — including design, demolition, street realignment and land acquisition — should fall in the range of $60 million to $62 million. That means the city’s full share

of the project will exceed $30 million.

According to Hickman, work should commence soon on the construction phase.

A tentative date for the completion of work to expand the convention centre is scheduled for December 2015, and Hickman said the site should be ready to host events the following spring.

The city is hoping increased capacity at the convention centre will enable St. John’s to attract larger events. It will have an overhead walkway connecting the site to the Delta Hotel, and 1,300 people will be able to dine in a new main ballroom. A junior ballroom will acc-ommodate 400 people.

At present, the site can handle conventions with 400 to 600 attendees.

The city says the expanded centre will have the capacity to host conventions with 600 to 800 guests.

“It will certainly work well for hosting a large convention or even two smaller conventions at the same time,” said Hickman.

The current convention centre is scheduled to close in the fall of 2014 to accommodate further construction.

Ward 2 Coun. Frank Galgay noted there are a number of hotel projects in the city at various stages of development. He said those endeavours will help support the expansion of the convention centre.

“I’m very pleased to see this very significant development,” he said.

According to a news release issued by the city on Monday, the St. John’s Convention Centre generates $35-40 million in annual revenue.

Twitter: @TeleAndrew


Organizations: Convention Centre, Quebec company Pomerleau, Pomerleau Delta Hotel

Geographic location: Quebec

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Recent comments

  • Robert Miller
    April 02, 2013 - 15:37

    There were 2167 available rooms in St. John's as of 2009 when the St. John's Convention Center expansion was estimated to cost $15-20M. Has the 4% accommodation tax been adjusted upwards now that the project will cost over $60M? The city expects to pay its share of roughly $30, not including construction cost overruns, with an accommodation tax. At $6 per room with 100% occupancy and with zero finance costs, it would take 6.5 years to raise the funds. Has the city considered short term finance costs and future budgets?

  • david
    April 02, 2013 - 13:48

    We get the governments that we deserve, and all the continuous incompetence, emezzlement and idiocy that comes with them. It is our tragic, laughable destiny.

  • Quebec Contractor
    April 02, 2013 - 11:28

    We build in an automatic 15% kickback to municipal officials. What, you don't want it? ah, we can add it to our profits; thanks....the business community of La Belle Province would like to thank the taxpayers of your quaint, gullible city and province.

  • Accurate Estimator
    April 02, 2013 - 11:24

    who did the original estimate? Minister Marshall??

  • Nightmare on New Gower
    April 02, 2013 - 09:10

    Seriously from a design aesthetic viewpoint this has to be one of the ugliest designs I have ever seen and I have been to post Soviet countries famous for such crass exteriors of buildings.Hoping Council don't drop the ball again like Fencegate and put a stop to this ugly uninviting warehouse design asap.

  • Dee
    April 02, 2013 - 09:08

    What a slap in the face,why did you even send outside of NL for a contracting company to bid on this contract.Let alone Quebec.You should be ashamed of yourself Mr. Hickman our own people here could use the work and you could have kept the money in our own province.Must be someone's friends or family in Quebec.

  • Molly
    April 02, 2013 - 08:52

    This room tax should go into miunicipal public works ,but that would require common sense,which none of them have.....

  • Jack
    April 02, 2013 - 07:44

    Michael B., civic projects would not be well over budget if contractors and designers managed their projects effective with minimal deviation from the scope of the project, and the government makes an effort to eliminate the labour shortage.

  • Jack
    April 02, 2013 - 07:41

    Since the Quebec Government doesn't allow companies from outside Quebec to bid on civic projects, Newfoundland and Labrador municipalities should not be allowed to have Quebecers bid on our civic projects and develop them, especially Pomerleau. To add insult to injury, contractors not based in Quebec are not even allowed to bid or development Plan Nord related projects, particularly the Highway 138 extension from Kegashka to Vieux-Fort or Blanc Sablon. Due to the rugged and rocky terrain of Quebec's Lower North Shore area where the planned Highway 138 extension will take place, outside based companies will be needed for this project.

  • Ken Collis
    April 02, 2013 - 07:24

    Great idea for attracting visitors Sandy. First, lets tax them an extra 4%. That's very critical to point out.

  • Nicole
    April 02, 2013 - 07:10

    It all sounds so great!!! My question would be where the heck are the 600 - 800 guests going to park?

  • well
    April 02, 2013 - 07:00

    wow all that money to expand a centre that we rearly use now , but we dont have money to fix the potholes. i bet the mayor's street dont have potholes

    • Robert
      April 02, 2013 - 08:24

      Potholes are the result of our climate's freeze/thaw cycle and it surely does not play favourites so I have no doubt the good mayor's street also has its potholes. And please don't include me in your "we" and the many others who use the facility. And perhaps you should speak with the business owners in the area to learn of the positive impact the convention centre has on their bottom line. There are a total of 5 comments on this forum so far.......all negative! Maybe we should go back to the good old days with far too many people were unable to find a job.

  • Michael B.
    April 02, 2013 - 06:52

    The Confederation Building project has gone over budget by 25%. The Convention Center is now over budget by 25%. Why does anyone believe that a hydro project in the middle of Labrador will come in at $8,8 Billion. Those cost overuns will by massive.

    • a business man
      April 02, 2013 - 09:03

      Michael, you are correct. The hydro project will likely have massive cost overruns. However, because I will get an indirect benefit from the project, I support it completely and accept that there will likely be cost overruns.

  • Joe
    April 02, 2013 - 06:40

    Bring Quecbec construction problems to Newfoundland 10 million all ready over budget wait till the project is over Pomerleau, whose construction company employs 2,000 workers and racks up about $1 billion in annual revenues in Quebec, suggested that part of the problem is that the province obsesses over cost. Elsewhere in Canada, he noted, quality is considered the most important factor. "We want so much for it to be clean, well-organized, well-structured and there is a little less emphasis on quality," he said. Pomerleau said that elsewhere qualitative criteria are valued as much as budgetary restrictions. "Set up systems to assess the quality of applicants, it is done very well all over the world," he said. Nonetheless he vaunted that, "the quality of construction here is unequaled in the world." Pomerleau praised Bill 33, which will lessen union control on construction sites, pointing out that the law could lower costs and even have a bigger impact than the Charbonneau Commission. "The impact of Bill 33 will be, from my point of view, much larger than the impact of weeding out three or four fraudulent companies," he said. Pomerleau predicted that the commission would show that the construction industry is no worse than others. Read more: