Divine Lorraine Groundbreaking Ceremony Set for Wednesday

The day has finally come, and we've got all the info you need to know–including new renderings.

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. 

Rendering: Moustafa Moustafa

Rendering: Moustafa Moustafa

Then, Billy Procida, whose Procida Funding officially kicked in a $35 million construction loan just last week, hinted that a groundbreaking was on the horizon for this week and confirmed that Domus Construction was working inside the building. “It’s up and going, and ain’t nothing stopping it,” Procida told us last week.

Now, the official word comes from Blumenfeld’s group that it will indeed be Wednesday afternoon. EBRM’s Chris Cordaro tells us that the pop up shop was always supposed to be part of the groundbreaking ceremony, but the schedules and dates were mixed up.

The date of that event has since changed to Wednesday and now runs from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., after the groundbreaking ceremony, and 10% of the proceeds will be donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

“It should be a good show,” said Cordaro of the event.  The Divine group operates out of the Woodmont estate in Gladwyne and has developed an extensive library of historical photos of the Divine Lorraine in its heyday. Cordaro said the developers had “pretty productive conversations” with the group and were granted permission to not only reproduce them, but also to set up a mini-museum in the lobby for the event to celebrate the building’s incredible past. Renderings and design concepts of the new-look Lorraine will also be on display alongside the historical images.

Rendering: Moustafa Moustafa

The Lobby | Rendering: Moustafa Moustafa

Cordaro also heaped praise on Penelope Giles, founding director of the Francisville Neighborhood Development Corporation, whom he credits with striking a proper balance between residential and retail development, as well as making sure no one is displaced in the process. “Francisville is so close, and the Divine Lorraine acts as a catalyst to strengthen the Ridge Avenue corridor … Penny has championed the development of Francisville, and has made sure areas of blight are taken into consideration,” said Cordaro

In that article from The New York Times, Blumenfeld said that the redevelopment of the Divine Lorraine “has always been a tipping point” in regards to the resurgence of the surrounding neighborhoods. Well, it looks like the that all starts on Wednesday.