Philly officials hopeful about future of blighted Divine Lorraine
October 3, 2012By Elizabeth Fiedler
A historic gem on North Broad Street in Philadelphia may finally go from the desolate haunt of vandals to an inviting array of apartments. A new developer now owns the iconic Divine Lorraine Hotel, which sits at the intersection of Broad Street and Fairmount Avenue.
The Divine Lorraine's plum location -- between City Hall and Temple University -- means its transformation from a hulking canvas of graffiti could spur development in the surrounding neighborhood.
Alan Greenberger, the city's deputy mayor for economic development, said he's excited about the Divine Lorraine's future.
"We've been working for a year and a half with interested parties, with the bank that holds the debt, with the city revenue department, to make sure that the transition of ownership to Eric Blumenfeld and his company, took place," Greenberger said Wednesday.
Greenberger said the neglected building's current state -- vacant and vandalized -- makes it a "billboard of blight."
"We haven't worked yet with Blumenfeld yet on financing, but we fully expect they're going to request some public support and we're prepared to look at all the tools we have to see which ones are applicable and can help make this project happen," he said.
Greenberger said even though there are many improvements nearby, the Divine Lorraine's rundown state sends a bad message, and will impede economic development on North Broad Street -- unless the 1894 structure is redeveloped.
John Gallery, executive director of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, is also optimistic.
"We definitely have concerns about preservation of different parts and the building as a whole, but we have dealt with Blumenfeld on other historic buildings that he owns and he's been a very responsible developer of historic properties," Gallery said. "We have a lot of confidence that he understands what the issues are."