Thanks to OCC’s momentous $40 million renovation project, completed in October 2019, numerous public spaces throughout our venue have been reimagined and remodeled to improve accessibility for event attendees, provide more flexible and transformable space options and elevate design aspects. The ambitious remodel, which was completed during OCC’s busiest year-to-date, was our first large-scale renovation since the venue was built 30 years ago.
OCC’s Gorgeous Plaza
An important focus of the renovation project was OCC’s outdoor plaza. The plaza sits directly adjacent to the Hyatt Regency Portland at the Oregon Convention Center, seamlessly linking the two venues, and can be used for flexible outdoor events. The space was built with wayfinding in mind, and was designed to usher the flow of OCC and hotel guests, as well as transit commuters from the MAX station, toward OCC’s main entrances. When the plaza isn’t booked for a client event, the public is welcome to use it as a park, lunch spot or meeting space as a convenient and central community space in OCC’s Lloyd neighborhood.
OCC’s renovated plaza is complete with beautiful Pacific Northwest-themed gardens featuring native plants, water features and outdoor seating. The sustainably-built gardens were created to filter rainwater, and were designed around an old growth log that has been located in OCC’s plaza for 28 years as a living art piece.
Accessibility and wayfinding were major renovation focal points. Sleek, illuminated signage has been added throughout the building, making it easier than ever to navigate our venue. OCC has even implemented an ambassador program, which continues to operate post-renovation, to answer event attendees’ questions in-person.
Navigating from one side of our building to the other used to require using numerous staircases, escalators and elevators, presenting a challenge for our visitors, particularly for those with mobility limitations. Now, the Level 1 Connector, a completely new corridor that was carved into our existing building, provides guests the ability to cross the entirety of our venue’s first and largest floor without having to change levels — greatly reducing the need to use multiple escalators and elevators. Adding this corridor has greatly increased accessibility and ease for all OCC guests and employees navigating our building.
Of course outside of the building itself, OCC remains easily accessible via multiple types of public transportation, including streetcar, bus and light rail. The convention center is even a short light rail ride directly from the airport, and so meeting planners often opt to provide public transportation passes to their attendees visiting OCC.
More Flexible Spaces and Features
The OCC team knows that flexibility is a key component of hosting a successful event, and so OCC has added more multi-use gathering spaces and tools to support an array of different event needs. For example, OCC’s newly renovated bathrooms can be made unisex, and there are also standalone one unit unisex bathrooms. OCC’s Mamava pods have been a huge success, and will continue to be available for event use. Nursing mothers are able to use these pods during events at OCC, ensuring convenience and privacy.
The renovation project included multiple updates ensuring that OCC is equipped with state-of-the-art meeting capabilities. The most current AV, projection and lighting equipment has been added to the main ballrooms, and has been expertly hidden behind OCC’s gorgeous ceiling installations and wall panels, providing flexible event options for clients and a beautifully-designed experience for guests.
Another updated feature are the wooden tiered stair seats, complete with charging outlets, adorning OCC’s lobby stairs. Guests use these stairs as a space to meet and chat, work or enjoy a quick break.
A Pacific Northwest Inspired Convention Center
In order to integrate creative design aspects throughout the venue, OCC drew inspiration from the beauty of Oregon’s natural landscape, adding unique design touches such as lichen-inspired carpets, bold furniture pieces in cool shades and textured wallpaper echoing a forest grove. These design aspects invoke a sense of place, and when visitors set foot inside OCC, they immediately know they are in an Oregon venue. This dedication to providing a beautiful and inspirational venue through design is rare among most other convention centers.
Notable renovation design aspects are the intricate, three-dimensional ceiling installations that have been installed in the Oregon Ballroom and its gathering area. The ceiling in OCC’s main ballroom is constructed from over a thousand individual wood-like ceiling pads that appear as a tree canopy to those looking up, while the gathering space outside of the ballroom features a ceiling that reflects the topography of the Cascade Mountain range. Both stunning, uniquely-Oregon installations, as well as the additional 23 art installations found throughout OCC’s building, serve as graceful reminders that OCC is Oregon’s convention center.
Community Behind the Renovation
OCC’s comprehensive renovation project was the result of years of planning and the support of a large number of community stakeholders and organizations. The need for a comprehensive venue refresh became apparent back in 2013, when collaborative discussions began between key Portland stakeholders, including organizations such as the Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission (MERC) and Portland’s regional government body, Metro. With MERC’s guidance and staff leadership, Metro procurement developed a fair RFP process which emphasized Certification Office for Business Inclusion and Diversity (COBID) contracting and a diversified workforce as a clear priority.
OCC partnered with Colas Construction as the general contractor for the project, resulting in the largest Oregon public works contract being awarded to a minority owned business at the time. Colas Construction was an outstanding partner throughout the entire renovation process. Colas’ relationships were instrumental in bringing skilled COBID-certified subcontractors to the remodel, resulting in 51% of the project contractors being COBID-certified firms and 35% of the total hours worked conducted by minorities.
OCC worked with multiple local Pacific Northwest firms throughout the renovation, which was completed on-time and on-budget. The renovations were designed by Seattle-based LMN Architects, Merryman Barnes Architects were tapped as the associate architect firm and Mayer/Reed acted as the landscape architectural firm and environmental graphics designer. Glumac was brought on as the MEP engineer, Seattle-based Magnusson Klemencic Associates was the structural engineer, and KPFF was the civil engineering firm.
OCC is proud to operate as one of the most sustainable convention centers in the world. OCC was the first convention center to receive LEED-EB certification in 2003. Our venue has also been LEED Platinum certified since 2014 (the highest certification by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which for an existing center is nearly unprecedented, with only two convention centers receiving this designation. Because sustainability is woven into OCC’s mission and operations in every possible way, sustainability was a central aspect of the renovation process.
As part of OCC’s renovation project, we opted to build using environmentally-friendly materials, whenever possible. The facility has installed all LED lighting that is automatically controlled to brighten or dim depending on the amount of natural light in the space at a given time. The renovation also used all low volatile organic compound (VOC) materials, and particular focus was placed on recycling construction waste, including metals and gypsum.
As part of the changes to OCC’s actual building and functionality, a corridor (internally referred to as the Level 1 Connector) was built as an alternative route, making it possible for event attendees to forego using OCC’s elevators while traveling across the first floor. Lighter usage of escalators and elevators means less time, energy usage, inconvenience and cost to maintain and repair them. OCC’s single level escalators each use approximately 15,000 kWh of electricity annually to operate 12 hours per day. To put that into perspective, the energy use of a pair of escalators is equivalent to the annual average energy consumed by about 3 average American households. By building an alternative route forgoing escalator usage, a significant amount of energy is now saved at OCC on a daily basis.
During the renovation, 110 tons of carpet was removed. Instead of letting this carpet go to waste, we recycled and repurposed it. The carpet padding was remade into new carpet padding, while the carpet itself was shipped to Seattle to be made into a filtration system — filtering waste coming from cargo ships to help to clean the Puget Sound.
A New Convention Hotel
Thanks to careful planning and years of work, OCC’s renovation completion coincided with the opening of the Hyatt Regency Portland at the Oregon Convention Center. The hotel provides meeting planners a committable block of 500 rooms, out of the 600 total rooms available, right across the street from the Oregon Convention Center. Guests can now conveniently stay steps away from our venue. The combination of OCC’s momentous renovation with a new, centrally-located convention center hotel is helping to solidify Portland’s position as a premier convention destination while ushering in a momentous chapter for our convention center neighborhood, Lloyd.