Center City's first big lodging project in more than six years is expected to be a 650-room Renaissance hotel on Broad Street, three blocks north of City Hall, people familiar with the plan say.

The site on the northwest corner of Broad and Race Streets is now a parking garage and the headquarters of Parkway Corp., which is a partner in the development. The hotel could be connected underground to the Convention Center after the building is expanded.

Lodging experts say the catalyst for building more hotels now is the planned start of construction later this year to expand the Convention Center from 13th to Broad Street between Arch and Race Streets. The expansion is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2009.

The Renaissance hotel would be a joint effort of Parkway, the region's largest parking company, Marriott International Inc., and other developers.

Renaissance is the only major Marriott hotel brand not already represented in Center City.

Officials at Parkway and Marriott would not talk about their plans. But others involved in the hotel business and in promoting the Convention Center say the project has been discussed for months.

People briefed on the plan say the hotel, which would open around 2010, may be able to connect to a SEPTA concourse, now closed, that's sandwiched between the Broad Street subway tracks and the street surface. Using the concourse, hotel guests could walk to the hotel from the Convention Center without going outside. SEPTA has not been approached about using the concourse, agency spokeswoman Sylvana Hoyas said Friday.

No large convention-oriented hotel - the kind with restaurants, banquet halls, and multiple meeting rooms - has been built in the heart of the city since a surge of construction in the late 1990s in preparation for the 2000 Republican National Convention. That's when the Loew's Philadelphia joined the Philadelphia Marriott as a second major hotel adjacent to the Convention Center, and half a dozen others opened as well.

After a sluggish performance from late 2000 through 2003, the hotels sold almost 74 percent of their available rooms last year, and demand from conventioneers, tourists and business travelers enabled them to raise room rates almost 10 percent, according to PKF Consulting.

The city Redevelopment Authority has acquired virtually all of the land in the path of expansion, and expects to award a contract in May to demolish buildings and clear the site, spokesman Frank Keel said.

"With expansion of the Convention Center, there is an expectation of a need for more rooms in the market," said Warren Marr, managing director in Philadelphia for the PricewaterhouseCoopers L.L.P. consulting firm.

Others noted that a bigger center would be able to accommodate two large conventions at the same time, with one using the existing portion of the building and the other using the new section along Broad.

"Some groups say there are not enough rooms now right around the Convention Center," said Peter R. Tyson, vice president of PKF Consulting's Philadelphia office. "Just the demand from the Convention Center is going to generate business for that hotel."

Tom Muldoon, president of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the Renaissance may have 80,000 or more square feet of meeting and banquet space, comparable to the Philadelphia Marriott, the city's largest hotel.

That's enough for the Renaissance to attract conventions and meetings of its own from groups that don't need to use the whole center, he said.

Most new hotels opened since 2000 in the region have been in the suburbs, mostly in Montgomery County and around Mount Laurel. But since last summer, developers have announced other projects in Center City and near the airport.

Parkway Corp. is a partner with another developer, Urban Residential, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide in building a luxury W Hotel as part of a 30-story condominium project on the southwest corner of 12th and Arch Streets. Robert Zuritzsky, president of Parkway, said last week that construction should start this summer.

Already under construction is a Four Points by Sheraton hotel on the northwest corner of 12th and Race Streets.

Developers also are working on plans for at least three other hotels:

An aloft hotel - spelled with a lowercase A - would be one of the first of a chain of limited-service lodgings. Starwood plans to build it near the airport between two other Sheraton-branded hotels.

A hotel is planned for 24th and Walnut Streets as part of the Mandeville Place condo development.

Another one is expected to be part of a residential and retail development on the northwest corner of 16th and Vine streets.

Contact staff writer Tom Belden at 215-854-2454 or tbelden@phillynews.com

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