A soft opening for the 43,000-square-foot conference center is planned for summer 2021, and a grand opening is planned for fall 2021, said Keith Dalton, the president and CEO of Kingham Dalton Wilson LTD, a Houston-based design and construction firm and one of the private developers involved in the project.
Plans also include hiring a general manager in the next six months and to begin booking conferences about a year and a half before the center opens, Dalton said. Construction on the center and and six-story, 304-room hotel is expected to begin this fall.
Dalton along with Raymond Gabriele, vice president at Sueba USA; Raffael Scasserra, design director and principal at Gensler; and Byron Hebert, Katy city administrator, provided an update on the public-private project at the Katy Economic Development Council’s April 16 meeting.
The conference center’s grand ballroom—which can be spilt into four rooms—will have seating for about 1,000 people, they said. There will be other meeting room options as well as outdoor event spaces and courtyards alongside the 90-acre lake and boardwalk.
“The brand that we’ve established for this conference center is, simply stated, creating environments where inspiration comes alive,” said Dalton, who has lived in Katy for about two decades.
He explained that the Katy Boardwalk partners looked at conference centers and mixed-use spaces across the U.S., including Dallas, Atlanta, Florida and the West Coast, to determine what design would succeed in Katy.
“The one ingredient that tied it all together is [the center] being different, unique and trying to meet the demands of ever-growing meetings [and] meeting planners,” Dalton said. “Having a conference center and hotel that is different and unique—and feels that way—is appreciated.”
Architecture firm Gensler created a design focused on flow and natural light, Dalton and Scasserra said. Due to the lake, prairie and walking paths, the center's features highlight nature and wildlife.
“What this facility does is it allows this incredible inside-out relationship between the property and its surrounding natural environment,” Scasserra said. “And what you're seeing here is a lot of those meeting rooms … opening up to the lake edge and opening up to the exterior.”
In addition to the conference center and hotel, Katy Boardwalk will also include about 60,000 square feet of Class A office space; 155,000 square feet of retail, dining and entertainment; and two multifamily projects, one of which broke ground in early March and expects to open in mid-2020. Eventually, the east side of the development may include townhome residential options, Gabriele said.
The project also has about 2 miles of trails that will include natural elements that reflect Katy’s legacy and history, Dalton added.
In the next few weeks, a full-scale model of Katy Boardwalk will be placed inside Katy City Hall for residents and others to check out what the completed development will look like, Dalton said.
“The design that Gensler has helped us come up with is really authentic; it’s natural,” Dalton said. “It’s going to be different than what you’ve seen in the Greater Houston area.”