Inquirer Editorial: Divine acquisition may save North Broad

MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer
MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer
Posted: October 08, 2012

Developer Eric Blumenfeld's acquisition of the storied Divine Lorraine Hotel could provide the crucial ingredient needed to complete a North Broad Street renaissance.

Blumenfeld emerged as the sole bidder last week for the 11-story building, a hulking, graffiti-scarred landmark that's stood for years as a glaring symbol of blight. The value of the mortgage and liens he obtained for an undisclosed price was $8 million.

Blumenfeld actually bought the building in 2003, but sold it a few years later to a group of developers who fell on hard times. His reacquisition of the site is a coup not only for Blumenfeld, but for the city, which desperately wants to see the corridor between City Hall and Temple University thrive.

Blumenfeld plans to transform the eyesore into 126 rental apartments, including 25 subsidized units for low-income tenants. The ground floor would be used for restaurants or other food outlets.

With more than half of the funding secured for the $43.5 million project, Blumenfeld has reason for optimism. An active developer along North Broad Street, he is in a partnership that has converted a former car dealership site into two restaurants, an upscale event space, apartments, and parking.

A northern extension of Broad Street's Avenue of the Arts persona has long been seen as the key to revitalizing North Philadelphia. Restoring the 118-year-old Divine Lorraine Hotel, which was an apartment building before it became the home base of the Rev. Major Jealous Divine, opens the door to more possibilities.

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