The $1.6-billion Washington State Convention Center expansion project in downtown Seattle has a new contractor and a clear path toward the start of construction in 2017, while development on the Pacific Northwest’s largest hotel continues next door.

Matt Griffin, managing partner of Pine Street Group, the company hired by the convention center to oversee development, says contractor issues are in the “rearview mirror” and that they expect to complete design this year, keeping on track for a September 2017 construction start.

During preconstruction this past spring, the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) Public Facilities District terminated the contract for original low bidder Skanska and Hunt Construction Group “because design and budget issues led us to conclude that we would not be able to negotiate a satisfactory maximum allowable construction cost for the project,” WSCC board Chairman Frank Finneran said in a statement.

While the firing came as a surprise to Skanska-Hunt, the dispute has since been resolved amicably, freeing up the board to select the second-lowest original bidder, the joint venture of Lease Crutcher Lewis, Seattle, and Clark Construction Group, a Maryland-based company with a Seattle-area office.

With a new contractor in place, Griffin says the path forward must venture through the process of gaining entitlements.

During 2016, Griffin says the programming for the 11-story building didn’t change. Seattle-based LMN Architects’ “refinements” to the exterior have made it “more interesting” and “a lot more transparent” in an effort to open the city to center visitors and allow those outside the center to better experience the programming inside, he says.

The 440,000-sq-ft overall scheme includes 250,000 sq ft of exhibition space, 125,000 sq ft of meeting rooms and 60,000 sq ft of ballroom space. It will fill four downtown blocks and include a pedestrian connection to the existing center, a stronger link to Pike Place Market and the immediately adjacent Paramount Theatre, and underground parking for 800 vehicles. As the center moves closer to construction for a 2020 completion, Griffin says he anticipates that the two most complicated tasks will be building on an eight-acre site in the center of a busy city and keeping part of the property open to metro buses for the first year of construction.

The new expansion will feed a local hotel boom. Next door to the convention-center expansion, a 45-story Hyatt Regency is under construction and expected to open in mid-2018.

Seattle developer R.C. Hedreen Co. signed Hyatt as the operator of the 1,260-room facility, with more than 100,000 sq ft of flexible meeting and event facilities and multiple food and beverage outlets. Once open, the hotel will become the largest in the Pacific Northwest.