Divine acquisition may save North Broad renaissance

"I can't believe it worked," said developer Eric Blumenfeld said after gaining title to the Divine Lorraine Hotel. ( MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer)

Developer Eric Blumenfeld’s acquisition of the storied Divine Lorraine Hotel could provide the crucial ingredient needed to complete a North Broad Street renaissance.

Blumenfeld emerged as the sole bidder last week for the 11-story building, a hulking, graffiti-scarred landmark that’s stood for years as a glaring symbol of blight. The value of the mortgage and liens he obtained for an undisclosed price was $8 million.

Blumenfeld actually bought the building in 2003, but sold it a few years later to a group of developers who fell on hard times. His reacquisition of the site is a coup not only for Blumenfeld, but for the city, which desperately wants to see the corridor between City Hall and Temple University thrive.


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Blumenfeld plans to transform the eyesore into 126 rental apartments, including 25 subsidized units for low-income tenants. The ground floor would be used for restaurants or other food outlets.

With more than half of the funding secured for the $43.5 million project, Blumenfeld has reason for optimism. An active developer along North Broad Street, he is in a partnership that has converted a former car dealership site into two restaurants, an upscale event space, apartments, and parking.

A northern extension of Broad Street’s Avenue of the Arts persona has long been seen as the key to revitalizing North Philadelphia. Restoring the 118-year-old Divine Lorraine Hotel, which was an apartment building before it became the home base of the Rev. Major Jealous Divine, opens the door to more possibilities.