This fall, construction will begin on a $425 million project to update the 85-year-old Cleveland Convention Center and build a new medical mart next door.

The new Cleveland Medical Mart & Convention Center, owned by Cuyahoga County, will be developed and managed by Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., Chicago, which runs The Merchandise Mart in Chicago, a facility that has permanent showrooms for the retail industry.

The medical mart concept is new to the medical industry. It is a permanent exhibition space for companies to showcase medical products, equipment, supplies, and services year-round. Cleveland is the second city to launch a medical mart this year, following Nashville, which got the go-ahead to build the Nashville Medical Trade Center in January.

Cleveland’s Medical Mart will have about 120,000 square feet of permanent showrooms available to lease by major medical manufacturers and providers. It will be connected to the convention center, which will be completely remodeled. The renovated center will have about 300,000 square feet of exhibit space and approximately 160,000 square feet of meeting space.

The convention center is also adjacent the city-owned Public Auditorium, known as Public Hall, which has about 30,000 square feet of exhibit space, plus an auditorium.

Groundbreaking is scheduled for October. Once construction begins, the convention center will be closed until the project is complete, which is expected to be in October 2013. Groups already booked in the center are working with the convention center sales staff to relocate to other facilities in Cleveland, such as the Public Auditorium, International Exposition Center, or hotels. Those that can’t be accommodated may have to find new destinations.

Tony Prusak, director of convention sales at MMPI, says the medical mart will enhance the experience for medical meetings at the convention center. “This is an integrated facility, meaning it’s one building encompassing the medical mart, the convention center, as well as all the conference and meeting space,” he says, noting that tenants lease space in the medical mart for three years.

“We’ll look for synergies between what’s in medical mart and what’s in the convention center,” says Prusak, who was recently named to the board of directors of the International Medical Meeting Professionals Association. Groups meeting at the facility will have free access to the showrooms in the medical mart.

While medical meetings will be the primary focus of the new facility, MMPI will work with Positively Cleveland, the city’s destination marketing organization, to book all kinds of meetings in the center.