"We're booking better quality events," said Robin Cuneo, the facility's executive director, recently. "Business is great."
The center offers 61,000 square feet of contiguous, obstruction-free exhibit space in the main exhibit hall with 20-foot ceilings, 3,578 additional carpeted square feet in five meetings rooms, and a banquet capacity of 5,000.
In fact, the popularity of the Meadowlands Center has paved the way for another Secaucus facility. Hub Expo Center, Inc. is constructing a 650,000 square foot, $100 million convention center on New County Road, with 500,000 square feet of exhibit space and 60,000 square feet of meeting space. Ten thousand square feet of that may be used for a ballroom. The project is currently being called the Gateway Expo and Convention Center at the Meadowlands.
The 285 acre redevelopment site - most of which currently lacks sewage service, electricity and running water, except in very limited locations - was once slated for a major housing development, but for numerous reasons, including resistance from the town of Secaucus, the housing never came to be. But now that area could see massive improvements under the newly proposed redevelopment plan.
Hub Expo is looking to build on a 60-acre site commonly called the Gallo Tract, which at one time had been considered for 2,000 residential units. The property is just East of Laurel Hill County Park along the Hackensack River. The one-story structure would include a convention center, meeting rooms, and related facilities, said officials from the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Corporation, noting that no restaurant or hotel has yet been proposed as part of the project.
Representatives from Hub Expo say it is being designed to provide large shows. The state-of-the-art exhibition facility will be the largest privately owned exhibit hall in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, and will accommodate shows that are currently unable to find available space or dates in the metro area. And, in addition to its abundant exhibition space, meeting space and on-site parking, the facility is located off I-95 (the New Jersey Turnpike), and near Routes 1, 3 and 9, and is just minutes away from the Holland Tunnel.
The Gateway Expo is scheduled to be completed by spring 2002 - although it could be put off until the fall of 2002.
"We want to open it in conjunction with the opening of the rail transfer station," said Joseph J Corcoran, President of Hub Expo Center, Inc., recently. He was referring to the proposed Secaucus Transfer train station that will connect commuter rail lines throughout North Jersey. "NJ Transit will be making road improvements and we're not sure when those improvements will be completed."
"The transfer station makes it all happen," said Charles A. Tese, vice president of Hub Expo Inc. "NJ Transit will be moving the railroad bridge over and opening up New County Road, and the Turnpike Authority will also be installing an exit there"
The Expo Center will take 18 months to complete, and Corcoran said the staff plans to date the start of construction so as to complete the Expo when the rail station opens.
"We could build it in two stages," Tese said. "We might put up a building that has 375,000 square feet of exposition and 15,000 square feet of meeting space, and then in a year, build the rest. But we could build it all. It all depends on investments."
HUB Expo Centers, Inc. is affiliated with Corcoran Jennison Companies, an internationally renowned development company. Over the last two years, the HMDC agreed to rezone the area to light industrial, eliminating the housing component from its own master plan. Part of the original tract included a section that has now been used to double the size of the county park.
While no hotel rooms are presently included in the plans, Secaucus' 16 other hotels, as well as those hotels planned for the top of the train station, make the location ideal. Corcoran said the project could include a 250-room hotel later. Tese said this could be expanded to 500 rooms if the project draws as much interest as the company believes it will.
Gateway Expo will handle regional shows that are expected to draw people from New Jersey or the Metropolitan area. Tese estimated about 180 days of show time with about 70 shows per year. Each show can bring in as many as 10,000 people.
"We'll be employing from 300 to 1,000 people depending on the show," Tese said
The Gateway Expo will be four minutes away from the New Jersey Turnpike, 12 minutes from Newark International Airport, 100 yards from the New Jersey Railway Transfer Station and adjacent to the new four million square foot business complex Allied Junction.
Hotel convention rooms
Aside from major convention centers, there are smaller convention rooms available to companies and industries holding conferences at the area's new hotels.
Mack-Cali Realty Corporation teamed up with the Hyatt Regency Corporation in May to develop a nine-story, 280,000 square-foot, 350 room Hyatt Regency Hotel. The joint venture project, which is now in progress, is on the Harborside's South Pier, directly across from midtown Manhattan, and will include an approximate 20,000 square-foot meeting and conference facility.
"We believe the Jersey City marketplace is among the most dynamic in the country," said Mitchell E. Hersh, chief executive officer of Mack-Cali, last week. "Our joint venture with the Hyatt will be the first and only development of a full-service hotel on the waterfront. With more development on tap, along with our continuing efforts to finalize a joint venture for residential development on the North Pier, we are confident Mack-Cali will continue to play a significant role in the development of Jersey City as a preferred corporate location."
The Doubletree Club Suites in Jersey City was the first executive hotel built on the waterfront and has been open since 1998. Conveniently situated just nine miles from Newark International Airport and a half-mile from the Holland Tunnel and New Jersey Turnpike, this 199-guest suite hotel features a 1,300-square foot conference room.
The Marriott Courtyard, located next to the Newport PATH station on Washington Blvd. (two blocks North of the Doubletree Club) officially opens this month but is booked solid until December. The Courtyard has 10 floors, 187 rooms and two conference rooms that accommodate up to 100 people in each. This hotel is considered the second executive hotel in the second largest city in New Jersey, making this Marriott high in demand. Marriott management said the hotel's success is due to the overwhelming demand from business travelers and tourists. This Marriott Courtyard is directly across the street from five major office buildings, two of which will be opening during the first quarter of 2001.
In addition to the Marriott and Doubletree, the Newport City area, which includes the Jersey City waterfront from the Morris Canal to Hoboken, will soon have six new hotels, five of which will be within a six-block section along the Hudson River.