They Believed What? Eight Philly Religious Fanatics

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Photo illustration by Alyse Moyer. Source images via Shutterstock and Jeff Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

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 »

Three Mega-Projects Slated for Civic Design Review in September

1300 Fairmount | Via Civic Design Review, RAL Development Services, Cope Linder Architects

1300 Fairmount | Via Civic Design Review, RAL Development Services, Cope Linder Architects

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.

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Historical Commission Gives Thumbs Up to Divine Lorraine Plan

Photo: Jeff Fusco

Photo: Jeff Fusco

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?

Read more »

Mother of God: The Divine Lorraine Hotel Accessories Collection Is Everything You Need

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Images via Instagram.

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 »

Divine Lorraine Moves One Step Closer

North Broad Street | Photos: James Jennings

North Broad Street in April 2015| Photos: James Jennings

Brace yourselves, folks. News regarding the Divine Lorraine is going to come fast and furious until the “groundbreaking” event takes place, hopefully sometime in August. Think of it as Property’s version of “Pope Watch.”

On Tuesday, developer Eric Blumenfeld went before the Architectural Committee of the Historical Commission to present the plans for the historic renovation that’s about to take place at the Grand Old Dame of North Broad Street. PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey reports that the committee voted to approve the overall plans for the project, but had a few suggestions for the man at the center of North Broad’s revival.

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Divine Lorraine Update: Four “Vetri-Caliber” Restaurants Planned

Photo: Jeff Fusco

Photo: Jeff Fusco

It’s not a dream, people. The long-planned transformation of the Divine Lorraine Hotel into a luxury apartment building starting to become a reality. It’s now fully funded and Chris Cordaro, vice president with EB Realty Management (EBRM), has let us in on some tantalizing tidbits of information regarding the mother of all redevelopment projects, as well as a few others EBRM properties.

Though Billy Procida, the investor behind the project, said that construction could start on the Divine Lorraine by the end of July, Cordaro tells us they’re currently planning a groundbreaking event of sorts at the site, “probably in early August.”

As you know, New York-based developer RAL is planning a large scale apartment tower/grocery store directly next to the Divine Lorraine on Ridge Avenue. Cordaro said the the two groups have been collaborating closely to make sure the buildings work with each other. As such, a shared green wall will be erected alongside the “Garden Veranda” level of the Divine Lorraine.

That brings us to the retail portion of the project. Cordaro mentioned that they’ve identified restaurateurs for the commercial space, which will now be four new restaurant concepts “of the Vetri-caliber” and not high end retailers.

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Prayers Answered: Blumenfeld Has Funding to Make Divine Lorraine Happen

Photo: Jeff Fusco

Photo: Jeff Fusco

The moment has finally arrived, Eric Blumenfeld (and EB Realty Management) has all of the funds needed to make the Divine Lorraine project a reality. PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey reports that the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority approved a $2.5 million loan and a separate $1 million grant to push the project’s financing over the hump:

That money, combined with a $3.5 million state grant awarded last week, federal historic tax credits worth the same amount, and a $30 million investment from New Jersey real estate lender Billy Procida, will allow Blumenfeld to start work on the redevelopment next month.

You may recall that a tour of the property in April revealed some interesting details about the project, including the news that it would be comprised of 109 apartments and approximately 20,000-square-feet of retail space. Procida, who described himself as a “very active and involved lender,” told Property earlier this week that the Divine Lorraine should close in the next 30 days. “It’s probably the most difficult closing of my life,” said Procida, who also mentioned that it’s “probably the prettiest building we’ve ever done.”

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Headlines: Early Plans Revealed for Mega Project Next to the Divine Lorraine

Ridge Avenue side of 1300 Fairmount | Credit: Cope-Linder

Ridge Avenue side of 1300 Fairmount | Credit: Cope Linder Architects LLC

Update (June 9, 1:30 p.m.): KYW Newsradio’s Mike Dunn reports that RAL’s initial plans “received preliminary approval in City Council” today. “Two Council committees have signed off on plans for a high-rise apartment building and grocery store on the long-vacant parcel at 13th Street and Fairmount Avenue.” More here.

Original: RAL Companies out of New York is starting to make a buzz around the development scene in Philadelphia. In May, the group was selected by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation as one of the three finalists to redevelop the Festival Pier site at Columbus Boulevard and Spring Garden Street. Now, RAL’s Robert and Spencer Levine spoke with PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey about the much-whispered-about development adjacent to the Divine Lorraine at 1300 Fairmount.

Here’s the gist of the plans, which a rep tells us are “still very prelimenary” at this point:

Those discussions have led, so far, to plans for two apartment towers and a supermarket on Ridge Avenue. Preliminary site plans—the Levines stressed that the proposal is in flux—also show a small group of townhomes at the corner of 13th and Wallace streets, to be built in a future phase of construction.

At this point, the plans include approximately 480 apartments with 580 parking spaces, shared between the residents and the supermarket customers. The project would reach a maximum height of 221 feet on the western tower, and contain 83,000 square feet of retail space. The apartments would be placed above the parking structure on the fifth floor, and the developers plan to claim a floor-area bonus for open space on the site. The complex will have 168 bicycle parking spaces.

To learn more about how the towers will interact with the architectural gem that is the Divine Lorraine (and more), hit up Brey’s piece over at PlanPhilly. For a look at those “prelimenary” designs, check out the gallery after the jump.

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Headlines: The Divine Lorraine, Comcast Grab State Grants

Photo: Jeff Fusco

Photo: Jeff Fusco

We’re back with an update from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) again, where a few major projects in the Philadelphia area got the thumbs up (at least partially, in most instances) for grants aimed “to attract and retain jobs in Pennsylvania by targeting large, economically transformative projects for development,” according to the RACP website.

EB Realty Management Corp. was granted $3.5 million of the $5 million for activation of the Arcade at the Divine Lorraine Hotel. Liberty Property Trust landed $10 million for “infrastructure costs related to” the in-progress Comcast Innovation and Technology Center. The Philadelphia Museum of Art $5 million for “infrastructure renovations and improvements.” The two behemoths on Market East, East Market (Girard Square) and the The Gallery, were awarded $2.5 million, respectively. $3.7 million went to the development of the Chinatown Community Center, also known as the Eastern Tower Community Center.

For a look at some of the major projects that did, and didn’t, make the cut (they can re-apply), check out Joe DiStefano’s column in The Inquirer below.

 More Headlines to Make Your Monday Special:

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Tour Shines Light on the Future of the Divine Lorraine and Mural Lofts

North Broad Street | Photos: James Jennings

North Broad Street | Photos: James Jennings

Oh man, does it look like the winds of change are finally starting to take shape on North Broad Street. Eric Blumenfeld, backed by mega-investor Billy Procida, recently gave a tour for those involved with each project to show them how his plan will completely change the corridor. The tour included Mural Lofts at the former Thaddeus Stevens School at Broad and Spring Garden Street and even a brief dip into the Divine Lorraine, a project that needs no introduction. The future seems brighter than ever, and it seems to start with high end apartments.

Blumenfeld’s first muse was to transform the Mulford Building into the 265-unit Lofts at 640 at Broad and Wallace. Head south a few blocks to Spring Garden Street and you’ll find Bart Blatstein’s relatively new project at the former State Office Building, which he revamped into 204 apartment units. In addition to the new digs, the ‘spur’ at the Rail Park on Noble Street is inching forward and North Broad Street will soon see the first of 46 “light masts” rise from the median. Blumenfeld plans 165 new apartment units with the projects at Mural Lofts (56) and the Divine Lorraine (109). So let’s get right to it. Read more »

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