Archbishop Ryan and LaSalle alum Bill Ricchini (aka Summer Fiction) recorded a series of music videos on a windy afternoon in the Divine Lorraine. He’s debuting one of those today, the aptly titled and impossibly charming “Lauren Lorraine.” The video begins with several set-up shots. As the band and crew head into the Divine Lorraine with their gear, you’re treated to some really cool visuals of the abandoned hotel: once-grand entryways, graffiti-stained columns and walls, and old staircase beams. The actual song part takes place in an airy open room on the 10th floor that almost resembles an airplane hangar.
Roughly a month after the Divine Lorraine’s groundbreaking, PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey reports Philadelphia’s zoning board voted last week in favor of approving the 1300 Fairmount Avenue project, which sits directly behind everyone’s favorite (formerly) lost jewel of a building.
As we previously noted, the plan for 1300 calls for 486 apartments, an estimated 84,000-square-feet of retail on Ridge Avenue (purported to be a two-level café with indoor and outdoor seating), a 6,000-square foot public plaza with 35 bike spaces, and a parking garage, which had required a special exception from the zoning board.
I hopped in a cab at 18th and Market and told the driver, Broad and Ridge Avenue, please, the Divine Lorraine. I then muttered to myself in almost disbelief: Holy crap, that’s going to be a thing now.
Well, it’s official: the massive (and fully funded) redevelopment project at the Divine Lorraine broke ground on Wednesday. Yes, there are pictures to prove it.
Its long, winding journey of decay and blight now turns the page from a more hopeful chapter of late to one that will actually see something get done. Designed by Willis G. Hale and built in the 1890’s, the architectural masterpiece has sat vacant for 16 years. Now, within 16 months, it will be reborn as a landmark building once again, as Blumenfeld, backed by mega-funder Billy Procida, plans to bring 109 luxury apartments and four “Vetri-caliber” restaurants to emerging North Broad corridor.
But, like I said, it’s been a long strange trip for Blumenfeld with the Divine Lorraine.
“I bought the building originally in 2004 for like, $2.2 million and sold it in 2005 for $10.1 [million],” Blumenfeld told me prior to the festivities, “and I was fuckin’ miserable. Every day, I’d come and see the developer ripping it apart.
One of the most talked-about development projects at one of the city’s most instantly recognizable buildings is about to get started.
A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday, September 16 at 1 p.m. at the historic building at North Broad Street and Ridge Avenue (map), according to an email from Eric Blumenfeld’s EB Realty Management (EBRM). The City of Philadelphia (with appearances by Mayor Michael Nutter, City Council President Darrell Clarke and Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger), the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Procida Funding are also listed as the hosts of the long-awaited occasion.
Following the groundbreaking, government officials will tour the site to soak in one final glimpse of what the The New York Times called “a billboard of blight” in a feature of the project last week. It has sat vacant for 16 years, but the new Divine Lorraine Hotel Apartments will soon be transformed into 109 units (101 in the main building, eight larger units in the annex) and four restaurant spaces, including a lobby bar that acts as a hub for food and drinks.
There were multiple signs that pointed towards a groundbreaking this week. A few weeks ago, designer Najeeb Sheikh was set to hold a pop up shop event inside the lobby at the Divine Lorraine. The event was scheduled for Tuesday, September 15, according to Facebook (more on this later), and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine a both events into one big show. Read more »
News came down this week that Eric Blumenfeld had secured a $35 million construction loan to all but officially mark the redevelopment process at the historic Divine Lorraine.
“We finally got it done,” said Billy Procida, founder of Procida Funding & Advisors in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. The company is providing the private funding for the Divine Lorraine and the other Blumenfeld projects on North Broad Street. Washington Square Realty Capital helped arrange the loan, which Procida described it as the longest and most complicated closing of his life.
But that’s all behind them now, and construction has actually started inside the famed building. “Domus is on site and they have started construction,” Christopher Cordaro, vice president at EB Realty Management, Blumenfeld’s development company, said in an email. “There is nothing holding us back now!”
It was a statement that Procida echoed: “It’s up and going, and ain’t nothing stopping it.”
1300 Fairmount, a large mixed-use apartment complex planned on the vacant lot that all but wraps the Divine Lorraine on Ridge Avenue, sailed through the Civic Design Review process this week. Jared Brey of PlanPhilly reports that the project “received generally positive remarks” from a committee that hasn’t pulled any punches (positive or negative) as of late.
RAL, a New York-based development company, plans to bring 486 apartments to the site over multiple phases, with a supermarket as the retail anchor of the project. The two development teams–RAL and EB Realty Management, the developers of the Divine Lorraine–were working closely to ensure that the design of each building works with the other. The result is a more modern 19-story tower set with its massing set away from the Grand Dame of North Broad on Ridge Avenue.
Neighbors did have some concerns, reports Brey, as they sought some assurances from the developer that the project’s multiple phases–another apartment block built over the parking garage and also townhomes on 13th Street– would be fully realized. An emphasis was also placed on some safety issues around the site, namely better street lighting on Ridge and Fairmount avenues.
For all the mountains of fuss being made over Pope Francis’s impending visit, you’d think we’d never seen a holy man hereabouts. Not true! Pennsylvania was founded as a haven for heretics, so it shouldn’t be surprising that its major city has been home to some curious religious figures in its 333 (oooh, that’s half of 666!) years of history. Here are eight of the most intriguing local believers — and what they’ve believed. Read more »
Let’s delve a little deeper into some major projects facing the increasingly colorful Civic Design Review process, shall we? The meeting starts at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, September 1 in Room 18-029 at 1515 Arch Street. Three big-time projects go under the microscope, including a repeat visit for one project in Pennsport.
In their 1300 Fairmount proposal, RAL Development looks to bring a massive mixed-use apartment complex, possibly anchored by a grocery store, to the vast vacant lot that wraps the Divine Lorraine. Maryland-based Concordia Group plans to raze the former (and newer part of) Mount Sinai Hospital, once dubbed the Divine Lorraine of South Philadelphia. Finally, Temple University looks to knock down an aging building to make room for a decidedly Scandinavian project designed by starchitects Snøhetta, a Norwegian firm with an eye for the spectacular, and the local firm Stantec.
Alright, let’s get right to it.
The Historical Commission gave its blessing to Eric Blumenfeld’s plans to revive the Divine Lorraine into a luxury apartment building with four “Vetri-caliber” restaurants split between ground floor and the underground Garden Veranda level, a sunken courtyard on the southern side of the project.
KYW’s Mike Dunn reports that William Alesker, an architect on the project, all but expected the Historical Commission to vote in favor of the plan, since “[the development team] spent a lot of time trying to get it right.” Here’s more:
“Our goal is to put it back as it was originally, in the 1933 design,” Alesker stated. “It’s a challenge doing the research to find out what was really there. It involved the investigation of old photographs, and just general research into what was there before. So it’s a challenge, but great fun to do.”
So does this mean that construction is finally about to begin on the long-awaited project?
Philly architecture geeks, listen up: The city’s best-loved abandoned building now has its own line of accessories. The grand historic hotel, which is slated to become a luxury apartment building (construction supposedly starts any day now; read all about that over on our fabulous sister blog, Property), has been immortalized in all its 19th-century grandeur … on a pair of Converse. And on hats, crewneck tees, denim jackets and keychains. Basically, the collection lets you pretend you once stayed at the Divine Lorraine, and then stole all the cute little hotel amenities it offered (grooming and shoeshine kits, a stamped tray, monogrammed robes and towels).
It could have very easily awry, like bad Pope memorabilia. But in the hands of local designer Najeeb Sheik and store Lapstone & Hammer (this year’s Best of Philly winner for best new men’s store!), it becomes something actually … covetable. Read more »