The 2011 expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center sparked growth throughout the Convention Center District within Philadelphia. The growth of the Convention Center was a catalyst to the following:
Pedestrian Plaza at Lenfest Plaza
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) unveiled Lenfest Plaza on Cherry Street, which linked three internationally-acclaimed art institutions – PAFA, the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), and The Barnes Foundation, which help to comprise the Parkway Museums District. The collection at PAFA, the nation’s oldest art museum and art school, includes works by America’s greatest artists such as Mark Rothko and Georgia O’Keefe.
The beautifully landscaped Plaza offers outdoor seating with the Paint Torch, a 51-foot tall sculpture in the form of a paintbrush by world-renowned artist Claes Oldenburg. This welcoming space is open 24 hours a day for relaxing, as a walkway to museums and as a venue for special events.
The Plaza also offers easy access from the Convention Center to the science and other museums along the international-flag-lined Benjamin Franklin Parkway, known as Philadelphia’s “Museum Mile.”
New Life Sciences Programming
With 50 percent of all conventions and meetings held in Philadelphia being life sciences-related, in addition to providing this seamless connection between cultural areas, PAFA will present new exhibitions focused on life sciences.
North Broad Street Lighting
In addition to the special LED lighting displays draping the center’s western entrance on North Broad Street, the Avenue of the Arts plans to restore the avenue to its former prominence, with a string of 55-foot iconic light towers that will create a glow for pedestrians and vehicles and even be visible from the air. The first phase of the plan calls for a four-mile promenade of light tying City Hall and the Convention Center to Temple University and neighborhoods to the north.
Renovated City Hall’s Dilworth Plaza
The area surrounding Philadelphia’s recently-renovated City Hall is undergoing its own $50 million renovation project. Dilworth Plaza—the outdoor area at the heart of Center City Philadelphia between the Convention Center, Avenue of the Arts and the beginning of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway—will be transformed into a vibrant green civic space for visitors, workers and residents scheduled for completion by 2014.
The expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center has been the impetus to the opening of several new hotels and renovation of many existing properties. The 202-room Le Méridien Philadelphia opened in May 2010, and the 230-room Hotel Palomar Philadelphia by Kimpton, as well as the 135-room aloft Hotel at the Philadelphia International Airport, and a 92-room Four Points Hotel near the Convention Center, opened to rave reviews in 2009.
Additionally, almost a dozen hotels are embarking on major upgrades to guest rooms, technology, meeting rooms and restaurants, including the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.
New Culinary Hot Spots
Some of our city’s most highly acclaimed chefs and restaurateurs are also expanding along North Broad Street along with the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Inside a former auto showroom, two culinary heavyweights are neighboring up into what will become a ‘must’ for visitors, convention goers and Philadelphians alike. Marc Vetri, winner of a James Beard Award and named by Food and Wine as one of the Ten Best New Chefs is the owner of three Philadelphia restaurants: Vetri, Amis and Osteria. His latest project inside 600 North Broad Street is Birreria 60, an Italian pub and wine bar. Vetri’s neighbor is none other than Philadelphia celebrity restaurateur Stephen Starr. He is best known for such Philadelphia staples as the Continental Midtown, Buddakan, Barclay Prime, Morimoto and Parc. He’ll premier Route 6, a New England-style seafood house just steps from the Convention Center at 600 North Broad.
Connecting to Temple University
Temple University, just blocks from the Convention Center, plans to spend $1.2 billion mostly to develop its North Broad Street corridor, including building a new flagship library, science research building and academic building as well as a high-rise residence hall with campus dining and retail space.
All of the growth ignited by the Pennsylvania Convention Center is creating a sparkling new hub of activity in the Convention Center District in Center City Philadelphia. It is now easier than ever for convention and tradeshow attendees, as well as international visitors to walk from the Convention Center to their hotels, activities and cultural attractions. The Lenfest Plaza and Dilworth Plaza, in particular, not only serve as welcoming public spaces, but also act as walkable links between the Convention Center and arts, culture, life sciences and business institutions in Philadelphia.
Year in Review
The Pennsylvania Convention Center annually publishes a Year in Review to highlight significant changes at the facility, the great success achieved by those improvements, and the bright prospects for continued success. The booklet details the Convention Center’s vital role in attracting visitors, driving the region’s economy, and sustaining tens of thousands of hospitality industry jobs.
In the annual reports, you will find the story of how the Convention Center refocused, reorganized and recommitted itself to the mission of serving as a leading economic force for the region’s hospitality industry.
The 2015 report can be found here.
The 2014 report can be found here.
Education and Training for Youths and Adults
The Pennsylvania Convention Center each year contributes $1.5 million toward training future hospitality professionals through programs at Philadelphia Academies Inc., Mercy Vocational High School and Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC).
This annual contribution supports the sustainability of qualified individuals in the region’s hospitality and tourism industries.
Here is the impact of investment:
- Philadelphia OIC has a very strong placement of graduates obtaining employment (73 percent placement from 2006-2012) within the Philadelphia region.
- About 90 percent of Philadelphia Academies Inc. students attend college; 7 percent are directly employed; 2 percent attend a trade school program; and about 1 percent join the military.
- MVHS students send an average of 8 students per year to 4 year institutions and 15 students per year to 2 year institutions. About 85 percent of MVHS students who went onto post-secondary education stayed in the Philadelphia region.
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