Tuesday, April 21, 2009

City defends Positively Cleveland, pushes for non-medical conventions in Med Mart talks

I've been writing a lot about whether the Med Mart deal threatens Positively Cleveland's funding and whether non-medical conventions will be a priority at the new convention center. Turns out Mayor Frank Jackson and his staff are asking the same questions. The city's negotiators want the county and MMPI to make concessions on those two issues before Cleveland will sell the current convention center to the county.

The Plain Dealer picks up the story today, reporting on Jackson chief of staff Ken Silliman's briefing to city council. "Keeping a prominent role for Positively Cleveland is key," Silliman (pictured) told council yesterday. More from the story:

[Silliman] also stressed that lots of industrial trade shows are eager to return to Cleveland once the obsolete convention center is replaced. Those events would pack hotels and restaurants, even if they don't appeal to MMPI.

"We are not as confident that a private entity will always make that correct decision," Silliman said. "This is a critically important area to us."

This is a major difference in how to look at the new convention center -- though one that could be resolved through compromise. The deal with MMPI says the county will send it proposals for convention bookings, and that MMPI "shall make commercially reasonable efforts to pursue" them as long as they don't "unduly interfere with intended uses of the Convention Facilities as part of an integrated facility with the Medical Mart."

"What we’re going to have here is a so-called themed convention center," Fred Nance, the county's negotiator, told me last week. That means medical conventions will usually come first, though it'll also depend on a show's size. "You could have a very low-level medical show that would be dwarfed by the impact of a non-medical show," he told me last week. "But all things being equal, the medical stuff would take precedence."

So Jackson is asserting himself to make sure the project doesn't lead us to a single-minded focus on medical conventions. He wants Cleveland to attract a new medical show market and the old convention crowds the antiquated center lost.

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