By Hank Tester

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – As the coronavirus pandemic continues to have a stranglehold on the economy, hard decisions are being made to delay both public and private construction projects.

One of those projects is the much-needed upgrade at the Broward Convention Centr.

“Until we are able to fully build out the east expansion and the hotel it will limit our ability to attract new and different shows from what we have been attracting,” said Broward County assistant administrator Alan Cohen.

Also being delayed is an 800 room headquarter hotel for the center.

“(It’s) delayed due to the uncertainty in the market about the future of the hospitality industry. In the case of the hotel, it is uncertainty related to what would be the future revenue of the hotel would be,” said Cohen.

The western expansion of the convention center, which has already begun, will continue. The now delayed eastern side project includes a large ballroom, 350-thousand square feet of much-needed exhibition space, meeting rooms, and a kitchen.

When tourists stay in Broward hotels, part of the room rate is a tourist development tax. The coronavirus generated drop in tourism has all but destroyed that revenue.

The tourism development tax numbers tell the uncertainty tale. Broward tourist development tax collections in March of this year are down 56 percent compared to the previous year. The numbers crater in April, off 91 percent. In May, they were down 84 percent. June looked a little better with 50 percent off from last year.

“On the east expansion side, the meetings and ballrooms that you referred to, the revenues pledged to pay for those bonds, to pay for that, would come out of our tourist development tax and there is uncertainty as to what those future revenues would be moving forward. Again because of the overall questions on what the long term impact will the pandemic have on the tourism and hospitality industry.”

The county will continue with the design and permitting process, and seek conventional loans, retire existing debt, and wait out the coronavirus economic storm.