With 2.4 million square feet of exhibition space, the World Expo Center in Osceola County, central Florida, was supposed to be the nation's biggest convention center. At least that was the plan announced last year by a development team that included Stanley Shenk-man, owner of Toronto's International Centre, and Robert L. Miller, the real estate developer who owned the land.
Size was not the project's only unusual element. The WEC was to be privately funded, with threemanagement companies signing on as equity partners in a time-share-style arrangement that would have guaranteed them space and rates for 40 years, in exchange for their investment.
But now, after a series of setbacks, the original idea has been altered considerably. Shenkman was unable to get financing, according to Miller, so Shenkman and the equity partners pulled out. Miller is going ahead with the concept of a private/public partnership, but without the trade show organizers. So far, plans are progressing. A recent court decision cleared the way for Miller and the county to move ahead with the project.
Phase one, scheduled for a 2003 opening, will feature 1.2 million square feet of exhibit space, about half the size of the initial plan. But zoning allows for the center's expansion to 3.6 million square feet, according to Miller.