After years of industry lobbying for an international convention centre for the Welsh capital, an ICC project is set to be endorsed by Cardiff council.
The first financial commitment, of £3m, to bring a £50m International Conference and Convention Centre (ICCC) is set be realised by the Liberal Democrat/Plaid Cymru-run authority this week. The council has identified the St David’s House office block opposite the central bus station as a preferred location.
Marketing organisation Cardiff & Co’s MD Richard Thomas tells CN: “Congratulations to Cardiff Council for making a firm commitment on this. It is encouraging at a time when local authorities finances are tight. They clearly recognise this is a positive investment in the long term. The location is perfect, right in the heart of the central business district.”
The owners of St David’s House, a group of investors based in Ireland and London, were rumoured to be in talks with council officials about the future of the site.
Hoteliers and meetings industry professionals in the city have long argued that Cardiff needs an ICC to compete with rival cities in the corporate and association sector.
The council’s own studies have shown a centre with capacity for 1,500 delegates would bring about £46m a year into the Cardiff economy.
Council leader Rodney Berman has committed the council to setting aside £3m over the next three years to the ICC project.
The idea is to use the cash to cover repayments on a £15m loan to be taken out in the 2015-16 financial year.
As well as attracting private sector investment, the £30m shortfall could be covered by a new funding mechanism known as Tax Increment Financing (TIF), according to the website Wales Online.
TIF allows local authorities to borrow money to fund new developments by using the business rates they will accrue in the future as collateral.
The next step is for Cardiff council to get the approval of the Welsh Government to use TIF. The authority made a formal request for the powers as part of its submission for an Enterprise Zone at its proposed Central Business District(CBD).
A response from the government is expected before the zones go live in April.
“This is about us signalling our strong intent to move forward with the convention centre and back that up with council resources,” said Councillor Berman.
“It has been an aspiration for some time, but this project is now firmly on the horizon for delivery in the next few years.”
The Chair of the Cardiff Hoteliers’ Association, Marie Fagan, said a convention centre would represent a “pinnacle” to Cardiff’s growth in the corporate sector.
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