Upcycling Casinos, Hotels and Convention Centers

In 2008, the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) convened the Global Summit on Social Responsibility, created for association professionals and business partners to talk about the UN Global Compact (that was signed by many organizations and companies, including Meeting Professionals International (MPI)), the future and our roles in it. The Global Compact's Ten Principles is worth reading again if you did before; especially so if you haven't.

It was a privilege to be invited to participate in these three intense days of face-to-face and virtual interaction, and it was exciting to focus on any number of issues within the 10 principles.

One issue that some of us wanted to discuss (that didn't make the in-person cut) was what would happen to the hotel and convention center buildings in cities if a) hospitality business diminished and b) if the cities in which these buildings existed became somewhat or totally deserted.

As shopping malls around the U.S. have been abandoned, cities and suburbs have faced similar issues–what to do with large, empty, abandoned buildings. You can view more on this topic from a number of sources including Buzzfeed, DeadMalls.com, The Daily Mail and Mental Floss. And that just scratches the surface of content available.

I was reminded, again, of this issue after reading about the latest hit to Atlantic City and the questions about use of an empty casino. I hate that this is happening to Atlantic City–a place of childhood trips where, as a young Midwestern girl, I relished the visits to the East to see grandparents and enjoy the Jersey Shore.

Atlantic City is not the only place that has to deal with abandoned buildings. We will eventually see abandoned buildings once purposed for meetings and leisure throughout the U.S. as more virtual options allow groups to meet in different ways, including smaller satellite locations.

What will become of these buildings? When there is such a crisis in housing and places to grow food, when there are so many people unemployed in our industry [3,200 will lose jobs with the closing of Revel Casino], when services are needed for many people under one convenient roof, when we are upcycling clothing and other items, why isn't our industry having big conversations about how to repurpose spaces now rather than waiting, like Revel did, until it's too late?

There are ideas and realities now that are in place and are being put into place: repurposing an abandoned school; repurposing an abandoned Wal-Mart; repurposing of other big-box stores; repurposing for offices; repurposing into community services.

My dream: Find investors who want to turn an abandoned mall into a creative space to house meetings where the design is intentional, flexible, accessible, and simply just cool. As well as ones who will turn an abandoned hotel into a home for aging meeting professionals who still want to practice their craft or just want to live with others who were part of their earlier lives.

Let's try to keep our industry healthy. While we do that, in the comments area of the blog and elsewhere, let's use our experience and future-thinking about how to use these spaces differently when they are abandoned. And they will be when the newer, cooler, fancier place comes along, or perhaps more simply, when supply outweighs demand.

What sort of facility would you create from an abandoned casino or hotel? An abandoned convention center? What spaces would advance your city if its hotels or convention centers go away?

Posted by Joan L. Eisenstodt

Follow Joan on Twitter: @joaneisenstodt

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