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As sale goes on back burner, Hynes returns to booking new conventions

The Back Bay convention center, long eyed for sale by Governor Charlie Baker, is now booking events into at least 2024, a sign it will stay open for some time to come.

The Hynes Convention Center in Back Bay has a new lease on life, now that the agency in charge of the Back Bay complex has shifted its focus from selling the place off to fixing and filling it.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The Hynes Convention Center has a new lease on life, now that the agency in charge of the Back Bay complex has shifted its focus from selling the place off to fixing and filling it.

The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority recently started booking the Hynes again, after holding off while its future remained in flux. And the MCCA is also weighing badly needed renovations, including some that can’t be avoided for much longer now that a potential redevelopment has been pushed further into the future.

In 2019, when the Baker administration announced its original plan to divest the property, the MCCA stopped booking events at the Hynes beyond 2022, spokesman Nate Little said. After the Legislature failed to approve a measure to redevelop the Hynes this summer, the MCCA started looking to fill dates there in 2023 and 2024. Some renovations, such as an HVAC overhaul, could require closing the Hynes for weeks or months at a time, which will affect when the building would be available in 2025.

Hynes supporters have been breathing sighs of relief after learning the MCCA is booking the facility again and that the nearly 60 previously scheduled events for those years will continue as originally planned.

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“We just think it’s a very good adjustment by the MCCA in light of the fact they were not successful in the way they orchestrated the sale of the Hynes,” Back Bay Association president Meg Mainzer-Cohen said.

The Baker administration initially sought the Legislature’s approval to unload the Hynes, either through an outright sale or a long-term lease, three years ago. The process stalled amid the COVID-19 pandemic and opposition in the Back Bay. Governor Charlie Baker revived the issue in April by including Hynes redevelopment language in a broader economic development bill that he filed that month. But leaders in the House and Senate weren’t ready to give the green light. They instead approved measures in their respective economic bills to study, by the end of this year or next year, the impacts of selling the Hynes.

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Hotel workers in June protested the potential sale of the Hynes Convention Center in Back Bay. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Now, even that study language is up in the air. On Aug. 1, lawmakers adjourned from formal sessions for the year without an agreement on the broader economic development bill. They may pass a slimmed-down version later this fall, during lightly attended informal sessions.

Translation: The Hynes might get redeveloped someday, but not any day soon. And whatever happens will take place under a new governor.

“The hotels are relieved ... to at least know we’re going to have it for the next three years,” said Martha Sheridan, chief executive of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Something else happened in recent months. The meetings business has bounced back. Hotel consultant Sebastian Colella of Pinnacle Advisory Group noted that the Hynes and the larger Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, also run by the MCCA, together will host seven “citywide” events in the last three months of this year (a reference to the number of hotel rooms required to accommodate them). That’s three more than the four citywide events held in the final three months of 2019. Taken together, Colella wrote, the seven events this fall translate into 90,000 room nights for the city’s hotels.

Carlos Aramayo, president of Unite Here Local 26, said there should be enough business to support two major meeting facilities in the city.

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“It’s good news for a more sober assessment of what the needs are in terms of the market and in terms of driving convention business in the market,” Aramayo, whose union represents workers at the Hynes and several nearby hotels, said of the MCCA’s decision. “My suspicion is what you are going to see ... is that it’s going to get filled up pretty quick now that they’re accepting bookings again.”


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.