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PHILADELPHIA-The state shakes loose the initial $16-million down payment to cover design and construction documentation for a $632-million expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The fund’s release awaited compliance with a set of demands by Gov. Ed Rendell regarding the setting of a specific timetable and analyses of costs and ongoing operation of the center. For previous coverage, click here .

In handing over the check, Rendell reminded the assembled city dignitaries, members of the Convention Center Authority and others that the expansion would not be taking place without passage of his bill to expand gaming in Pennsylvania. The state legislature has approved $400 million for the project and the funds will come from tax proceeds from the state’s slot machine venues.

The project will extend the 640,000-sf center, which now stretches from 11th to 13th streets between Arch and Race streets, west to Broad Street, taking it to approximately one million sf and adding about 60% more exhibit space. The plan is designed to make Philadelphia’s center more competitive with Boston, Washington, DC and other cities that attract large conventions.

The expansion, Rendell says, “is the most expensive capital project ever undertaken by the state…it will mean thousands of new jobs and a significant boost to the state’s economy.” The Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau estimates it will add $140 million to the local economy each year. It is expected to reach completion in 2009.

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