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Convention Center expansion spurs development

What will be the ripple effects of a $700 million Convention Center expansion that will include an entrance on North Broad Street when it opens in January 2011?

What will be the ripple effects of a $700 million Convention Center expansion that will include an entrance on North Broad Street when it opens in January 2011?

The plans go well beyond an increase in conventions and trade shows that could come here, city and civic officials said today.

Retailers, museums and hoteliers have architectural plans, and construction has begun on some hotels and a face-lift to the Gallery at Market East, with plans for new shops and outdoor cafes.

On North Broad, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts has a proposal to close Cherry Street to cars between Broad and 15th Street to create an outdoor plaza with shops, a restaurant, and a walkway for pedestrians to get to museums and hotels on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway - including the new Barnes Museum.

"We see ourselves as the connecting link between the Convention Center and the museum mile," PAFA president and chief executive officer Edward Lewis said at a meeting of the Central Philadelphia Development Corp.

"We're now negotiating with four restaurants - three in Philadelphia and one in New York - to create a remarkable restaurant off that plaza that would look out on Cherry Street."

With demolition nearly complete and the first construction phase of the enlarged Convention Center to begin this summer, city and civic leaders spoke today about plans for Market Street East, new hotels, and the restoration of Dilworth Plaza to link North Broad Street through the west side of City Hall to South Broad and the Avenue of the Arts.

Paul Levy, executive director of the development group, the Center City District business-improvement organization, said the private Knight Foundation had made a "major commitment" to invest in a "great plaza" on the west side of City Hall. An artist's rendering shows the plaza with an outdoor ice-skating rink.

Officials said the 376,000-square-foot Convention Center addition could spur construction of up to 2,600 Center City hotel rooms and could improve the public environment on blocks surrounding the Convention Center, which will cover the area between Arch, Race, 11th and Broad Streets.

Three hotels are under construction, totaling 535 rooms, and developers are planning construction of at least 2,100 more rooms, said Jack Ferguson, executive vice president of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The hotels scheduled to open next year are:

A 202-room Le Meridien hotel in the former YMCA building at 1421 Arch St.

The Hotel Palomar, a project of Kimpton Hotel Group, with 235 rooms, in the Architects Building at 17th and Sansom Streets.

A 95-room Four Points by Sheraton hotel at 12th and Race Streets.

Other lodgings planned, within a few blocks of the North Broad Street entrance of the enlarged Convention Center, include a 268-room Intercontinental Hotel on the north side of Vine between 16th and 17th Streets. The 40-story hotel would include space for retailers, apartments and condominiums. The site also will include a Whole Foods supermarket and a Best Buy consumer-electronics store.

Two hotels are proposed at Broad and Race Streets, one with 600 rooms and another with 200 rooms on the site that is now the headquarters of the Parkway Corp., the city's largest parking-garage operator, Ferguson said.

Other hotels planned include a Kimpton Hotel at 17th and Arch Streets, in the old Robert Morris building, and a luxury W Hotel, one of the Starwood chain's brands, with 275 rooms at 12th and Arch Streets.

A Girard Estate is proposed between 11th and 12th on Market Street, with 800 to 1,000 rooms, Ferguson said.