Outdated, poorly maintained, and critically disconnected from the streetscape and RiverWalk, COBO Center was well on its way to becoming Detroit’s largest white elephant. At risk of losing its contract for the North American International Auto Show, State and local government leaders arrived at an arrangement regarding the Center’s management and modification. Under the control of the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority (DRCFA) as part of a 30 year lease, COBO has already received $3 million in capital improvements.
Under the supervision of DRCFA, COBO Center has a new marketing plan and design. The master plan renovation calls for a $299 million expansion to increase the exhibit space to 1-million square feet. Metro-Detroit based architectural firms Albert Kahn Associates, SDG Associates, and Rossetti make up three quarters of the design team.
Renovations underway, urban planners, residents, and attendees eagerly await COBO’s new façade and modern interior. Soon a 3-story atrium will connect the convention center and COBO arena, not to mention create a more impressive entry to the lower level exhibit space. As much an urban design project as a facilities upgrade, architects are looking to improve the link to the downtown and the Detroit River. Draped in layers of transparency with new high-tech features, including a large exterior digital display billboard over Jefferson Avenue, COBO will once again be seen as a world-class convention center.
COBO needed more than a facelift, the approach to marketing and operations has also seen a complete overhaul at the hands of SMG, the world leader in venue management. The website has a new look and feel, with separate pages tailored to the distinct needs of attendees, planners, and exhibitors. COBO Center is also developing a successful social media presence using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Collaboration and ingenuity are what set Detroit apart; it’s what’s saving our city. Why do you think convention centers are an important part of the urban center?
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