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

Backed by Billy Procida, Eric Blumenfeld's overhaul of North Broad Street is about to kick into full gear.

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.

Catty-corner to Blatstein’s project is Mural Lofts, formerly known as Mural Arts Lofts. Housed in the historically registered, and mural-clad, Thaddeus Stevens School, Blumenfeld teamed up with architect Richard Sauter to design 56 apartments that seek to “respect what used to be and to bring it back.” The spirit of the former school, which has incredible tile work on the exterior, will live on in its new residential iteration. The project will keep the original classroom chalkboards, wood trim and transoms and try to salvage as much of the original wood flooring as possible.

It’s a beautiful property in general, and it’s easy to see the potential while walking it’s ultra-wide hallways. Blumenfeld and crew are transforming the former gym into six bi-level apartments that highlight the gorgeous arched windows. “These are the rockstars,” said Chris Cordaro, vice president of EB Realty Management, on the tour.

The headliner will definitely be the rooftop deck. Procida called it a “$100 million view,” as it looks at the skyline, Ben Franklin Bridge and also North Broad Street towards the Divine Lorraine and Temple University. “Come to Philly,” Procida said he tells other investors hellbent on New York City. “It’s twice as nice for half the price. It’s actually less than half the price.”

Rich Lauletta, partner with the Philly Apartment Company, the group in charge of the leasing of the apartments, said that rents will likely start at $1,400 and go up to $3,900. Units range from 574 square-feet to 1,674 square-feet and they’re expected to be delivered between October and December of this year.

Probably the biggest news is that the west lot fronting Broad Street is part of the property (it’s currently fenced off and wrapped in marketing materials) and will be some sort of retail complex. CBRE is in charge of the retail aspect of Blumenfeld’s North Broad plan and first vice president Dominique Casimir said in an email that the Mural Lofts piece is 20,000 square-feet. Details beyond that are not yet known, but that’s certainly exciting.

I know the only reason you came into this post for an update for the Divine Lorraine Hotel. Well, there is a bit of news. Procida told everyone on the tour that he hopes to be closing on construction financing “in June, God willing.” Construction permits should be approved soon thereafter and Cordaro said that Domus Inc., who is leading the build out, is expecting an 18-month construction timeline for the project. A revamped Divine Lorraine building by 2017? Hell. Yes. (Also, fingers crossed.)

Since Blumenfeld already did the heavy lifting with the demo work, and many of its grand historical notes were stripped out of the residential floors by a previous owner (you saw the fireplace at Winterfest), the building is essentially ready to go. Looking to revitalize the building sooner rather than later, plans recently shifted from a boutique hotel to 126 apartments. That’s changed slightly as well, with the project now calling for 109 apartments–101 apartments inside the main building and eight in the annex.

The lobby will be flanked by two retail spaces and has retained many of its historical elements, including a large skylight, which will be restored. Cordaro also said that there will be “approximately 20,000 square-feet” of retail space on two levels: the Main Level and the Garden Veranda Level.

Larry Steinberg, senior vice president of CBRE, will be heading up the leasing efforts for all of Blumenfeld’s North Broad properties (roughly 90,000 square-feet) including the Divine Lorraine, the Studebaker Building, the Metropolitan Opera House and the aforementioned Mural Lofts.

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