The Divine Lorraine, (All But) Ready For Its Closeup

The lobby of the Divine Lorraine Hotel, the one remaining part of the restoration project to be completed. | Photos: Sandy Smith

I came to yesterday’s (Wednesday, May 17th) Urban Land Institute Philadelphia-sponsored tour of the Divine Lorraine Hotel prepared to be skeptical, for while I’d seen the marvelous raw material developer Eric Blumenfeld had to work with in the lobby on a prior visit, I’d also seen some early pictures of the rejeuvenation project’s progress on the apartments upstairs, and those photos made me ask, What was Blumenfeld thinking?

Now I know.

And I must say that the ebullient champion of North Broad Street’s lower reaches has done a damned good job with some pretty challenging raw material. Some of the problems he had to solve fall into the category of making lemonade out of lemons, while others were more straightforward, like keeping the whole thing on time and under budget. But — except for the lobby of the grand old hotel-turned-apartment building — everything fell into place quickly and with less fuss than one might anticipate. Read more »

The Divine Lorraine, Reborn

Maybe it’s the ornate arrangement of windows and balconies. Or the neon sign that loomed dark for 15 years. Or the courtyard that splits the building in half, blurring the lines between inside and out. Or maybe it’s all these things that have made the 122-year-old Divine Lorraine Hotel on North Broad Street one of the most remarked-upon works of architecture in Philadelphia, on everyone’s short list of favorite buildings. Just look at it, and thank divinity itself it was saved from the wrecking ball. Below, developer Eric Blumenfeld shares some of what it took to renovate the building, which will reopen as apartments early this year. Read more »

The Divine Lorraine, Getting Ready For Its Closeup

The lobby of the Divine Lorraine, outfitted with a "check-in counter" for today's open house. | Photos: Sandy Smith

The lobby of the Divine Lorraine, outfitted with a “check-in counter” for today’s open house. | Photos: Sandy Smith

Around the turn of the last century, when the four buildings developer Eric Blumenfeld is in the process of reconstructing were built, North Broad Street was the address of choice for Philadelphia’s new money. The streetcar magnates and captains of industry who built mansions along this street staked it out after the city’s old-money Establishment around Rittenhouse Square shunned them.

The mansions have all vanished from the scene, but today, North Broad Street is witnessing another influx of new money, this time in the form of millions of dollars being invested in its redevelopment as a live/work/play environment. Four buildings, all owned by Blumenfeld, are serving as the linchpins of that transformation, building on his earlier success with conversion of a factory to loft apartments and a former car dealership into restaurants and a catering hall.

Blumenfeld, his chief financier William Procida of Procida Funding and Advisors, and commercial real estate agents Dominique Casimir and Jackie Balin of CBRE Fameco led a group of about 20 interested parties and two reporters on a tour of the four buildings this morning. Read more »

Want to Check Out the Divine Lorraine’s Progress? Stop By Wednesday Afternoon

Photo: James Jennings

Photo: James Jennings

Last September, developer Eric Blumenfeld invited the public to tour the Divine Lorraine Hotel so they could see for themselves that work was actually under way to restore the landmark building to its full glory after years of neglect and decay.

An overflow crowd showed up to take him up on the offer. Now, with interest in the project continuing to run strong — a merchandise collection continues to sell well at both Lapstone & Hammer in Center City and occasional pop-up shops — Blumenfeld is inviting the public in once again to view progress on the restoration.  Read more »

Summer Fiction Records Peppy Music Video in Abandoned Divine Lorraine

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.

Read more »

1300 Fairmount Project Moves a Step Forward

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

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

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.

Read more »

Groundbreaking: What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been for the Divine Lorraine

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.

The Story

“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. 

Read more »

Divine Lorraine Groundbreaking Ceremony Set for Wednesday

Photo: James Jennings

Photo: James Jennings

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 »

Divine Lorraine Secures Construction Loan; How About a Papal Blessing?

Photo: James Jennings

Photo: James Jennings

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.”

Read more »

1300 Fairmount Sails Through Design Review, Now Heads to Zoning

1300 Fairmount | Via Civic Design Review, RAL Development Services, Cope Linder Architects Read more at http://www.phillymag.com/property/2015/08/21/three-mega-projects-slated-for-civic-design-review-in-september/#5b06kkezoSBL2GRc.99

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

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.

Read more »

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