Business View Magazine | May 2019

38 BUSINESS VIEW MAGAZINE MAY 2019 Then, in 2011, the GRB changed its designation from a city-owned entity, which reported to the City Council, to an LGC (Local Government Commission), the Houston First Corporation, which reports to a Board of Directors. “The move helped us streamline our processes,” Gonzalez avers. “We learned from the experience of building the Hilton and were able to accelerate our construction timeline— getting approval and building the 1,000-room Marriott Marquis, which is attached on the north end of the building, in nine months. We are now anchored on each end with 2,200 rooms.” At the same time, the City decided it needed to think seriously about revitalizing its downtown. “Once the approval was given to build the Marriott Marquis, the funding was given to do a revamp of our district in preparation for Super Bowl LI in 2017,” Gonzalez says. “We underwent a $1.5 billion investment in the new entertainment district, Avenida Houston, and we spent close to $250 million on revamping the Convention Center.” “Prior to our renovation project, we had five separate entrances for five separate halls, with no contiguous concourse space,” Gonzalez continues. “We had minimal lobby space - close to 300 square feet. So, working with our design team, we built a concourse, a grand lobby with new terrazzo flooring and video boards, and a new front door to create a welcoming space for visitors. We reduced the eight lanes that separated us from our 12-acre park, Discovery Green, to two lanes and expanded our outdoor event and leisure space in the process. We added six restaurants along Avenida Houston with four on the ground level of the building, and the other two just across the street on the north and south sides of the building. During the Super Bowl, we hosted a million-plus visitors who came into this district and we didn’t want them to come for a four- or five-day period and feel that they had seen it all. We wanted to keep people coming back by showing them how dynamic and exciting Houston can be. So, I put together an event planning team for outdoor activities and, now, we have a full, onboard, outdoor development team that programs the space in front of the building so that pictured Vice President & General Manager, John Gonzalez