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Remember the Convention Center expansion? The $1 billion project that caused lots of hubbub at the end of the summer? It received a long lease on its life today.

The Convention Center Corp., the city-created nonprofit that operates the center, agreed to pay $13.5 million to purchase the waterfront land needed for the expansion. The decision beats a Dec. 2 deadline when the option agreement between the corporation and its owners, Fifth Avenue Landing, LLC, would have expired.

“This is the successful conclusion of a due diligence process begun a year ago which has resulted in the preservation of the site for a second expansion of the Convention Center,” Board Chairman Chris Cramer said in a statement.

The above raises the obvious question: What happens if the city decides not to expand the Convention Center?

The deal’s terms take non-expansion into account. The corporation owes Fifth Avenue Landing $1 million now and then $500,000 annually over the next four years. At the end of the following year, the remaining $10.5 million will be due. If the city decides not to expand, the corporation stops making payments and the parcel reverts back to Fifth Avenue Landing.

No financing plans from Mayor Jerry Sanders’ Office have emerged since a task force recommended expansion in August. These issues remain at the heart of the project’s viability, and the task force faced both internal and external criticism for not addressing them. Contributions from hoteliers and other tourism-based interest groups are expected.

The Port Commission also has to sign off on the land deal. It is expected to be placed on the commission’s Dec. 1 agenda, a Convention Center spokesman said.

— LIAM DILLON

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