April 20, 2011
By Bendix Anderson

With its dark windows peering over the Hudson River, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center has been New York City’s primary venue for exhibitions, large conventions and major trade shows since it opened in 1986. Now a half billion dollar restoration is providing thousands of jobs to workers in the building trades.

Designed by I.M. Pei as a replacement for the aging New York Coliseum Convention Center, the center, located on the super block of 34th to 38th Streets and 11th Avenue, offered approximately 760,000 square feet of exhibition space on two levels and 50,000 square feet of special event space in the River Pavilion. While revolutionary at the time of its construction, time and age took its toll, leading to a leaking roof and curtain wall and out of date mechanical systems in need of repair.  A greater demand for space and the need to update the building’s outdated infrastructure led the New York State Legislature to authorize the expansion and renovation of the Javits Center in 2004. Playing host to 3.5 million visitors, 80 major trade shows and 70 big events each year; the Javits Center is a large economic generator both for New York City and New York State.  With events stimulating employment, economic activity, tax revenue and tourism, expanding and renovating the Javits Center was a top priority, adding and improving upon its unique structure while at the same time allowing for the site to remain in almost constant use. 

The $463 million project, funded with proceeds from a $1.50/night hotel room tax, began with the first of two stages: the expansion. The $38.750 million expansion of the Javits Center was completed in June 2010, on time and on budget. Bounded by 39th and 40th Street and 11th and 12th Avenues, the construction added a new wing to the center with an additional 80,000 gross square feet of new exhibition space and a fifteen foot wide corridor connecting the old and new structures. The internal renovation project began in July 2010.  Still ongoing, the renovations are intended to keep the complex and city competitive in the trade show industry. 

More than just a new coat of paint, the entire complex is receiving upgrades to its ventilation system, building systems and energy systems. The iconic dark glassed windows are being replaced with a new high performance curtain wall with lighter glass.  Upon completion, the complex will also have a new 6.75 acre energy efficient ‘green’ roof. 

Requiring more time than the expansion, the renovation is set to be completed in 2013. Between now and then, work is being carried out in nine different stages, with two stages already completed. Work is being completed on schedule, with Tishman Construction Corporation of New York the project construction manager using breaks between scheduled events within the complex to do work in designated areas.

Prime contracts were competitively bid by Tishman Construction Corp.  Tishman holds more than 16 prime contracts. Major contractors working on the renovations include ADCO Electric Corp., ASM Mechanical, US Roofing, Eurotech, Samuels and Enclos Corp. There are up to 250 workers on site at peak, all working under a Project Labor Agreement with uniform work rules. Under the uniform work rules, holidays and hours are standardized across the project.  Laborers have eight holidays, a work day set at eight hours and forty minutes and abide by a no strike clause which stands for the duration of the project.

The project is estimated to create 9,000 new construction and construction related jobs and generate $880 million in construction and related sales during the construction. Upon completion the project is projected to generate an additional $22.5 million in new spending by attendees. The updated facility will boost tourism and economic activity in the city, reaffirming New York City as a premiere destination for trade shows and exhibitions.


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