TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Demolition began on Harvey Convention Center Wednesday afternoon.

Before the demolition, there was a ceremony where Mayor Don Warren and other city leadership spoke. City officials took first swings at demoing Harvey Hall.

“When we voted on this item as city council, we voted to approve it unanimously,” Warren said. “We’re all on the same page and we’re all 100% behind the project.”

Harvey Hall was originally built in the 1970s. It is now being torn down and rebuilt as part of a $28 million plan to renovate the Rose Garden Complex at 2000 W. Front St.

“I cannot remember the last time that we have demolished a building in the city of Tyler, but we’re going to do it today,” Warren said. “We’ve reached an important milestone. After many years of planning and community outreach, we came up with a plan. It’s a plan that I think we’re all going to be very, very proud of.”

The new larger convention center will be located closer to CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium and Tyler Municipal Rose Garden. The project also calls for rebuilding streets, parking lots and the Mayfair Building.

City leaders have said they hope the new convention center is open by fall 2022 in time to host Texas Rose Festival events.

Deputy City Manager Stephanie Franklin spoke about how they may or may not meet that deadline.

“We’re hopeful this project will open October of 2022 with the Rose Festival, but the city manager is a realist and I’m an optimist, so he’s let me know that with building material challenges and all sorts of other things that we might be here a little bit longer, but we’re going to stay optimistic,” Franklin said.

The demolition was originally scheduled for Monday, but was postponed due to weather.

THE NEW CENTER

Brandy Ziegler with Fitzpatrick Architects earlier this year gave a presentation of the new venue to city council members, complete with a virtual video tour.

A 3.3 acre park will be located off Front Street on the north side. Ziegler said it is an event park, and over 5,000 people can be at the park at a time. There will be an arbor tree park and a possible future connection to a food truck park on the west side that connects directly to the complex.

The conference center will have an iconic rose feature in the middle of the park, she said.

Photo from Fitzpatrick Architects presentation

A big conference space will be able to seat over 1,900 people in chairs and 1,300 for banquet seating, she said. There are “rose acoustic clouds” on the ceiling that can be lit different colors for different events.

Photo from Fitzpatrick Architects presentation

The new center also will have three breakout rooms that can be combined into one large room, and several large social spaces.

BACKGROUND

In 2016, city leaders and consultants began working on a master plan for the future of the Rose City Complex. A steering committee was led by former state Sen. Kevin Eltife and made up of community leaders from different industries, experiences and backgrounds.

Consultants held more than 20 meetings with stakeholder groups, as well as public meetings to review several different plan options for the area.

For many years, city leaders have explored options for building a new convention center including putting the center at other locations.

This project has been in the works for years, but is just now fully coming to fruition.

“There’s been four previous mayors that are supporting this project, and to actually start the groundbreaking under my tenure, I’m excited about it,” Mayor Don Warren said. “If it had happened in the past, I would have still been excited about it. My biggest excitement is just the fact that it’s happening.”

One third of the project will be covered with bonds, and the rest will be covered in cash, according to Chief Financial Officer Keidric Trimble.