Update: Due to concerns about rain, the block party has been moved to Nov. 3 from 4 to 9 p.m. The location and all of the activities, including a beer garden, several food trucks and family-friendly crafts, will not be affected.
The Divine Lorraine Hotel’s neon sign will shine over North Broad Street again this week after more than a decade since the sign was last lit for continuous use, said Chris Cordaro, vice president of EB Realty.
On Thursday, EB Realty Management will host a block party to celebrate the official sign lighting at the hotel-turned-apartment complex. The party will include games, food trucks (Cow in The Curd, Prime Stache, Dos Hermanos Taco's, Baby Blues BBQ, Nick's Roast Beef, Philly Pretzel Factory, Sweet Box), live music and a beer garden, sponsored by Yards Brewery and Tito's Vodka. Attendees can enter a raffle for a private tour of the building. "The whole community is invited,” Cordaro said.
“We are getting very close to occupying the building,” he said. “The sign lighting will act as a celebratory moment for the community and an announcement that people are moving in.”
Residents are slated to begin moving into the renovated building in November.
Restoration of the formerly abandoned 19th-century hotel began last September. Since then, two pop-up shops have been held in the lobby. Over 7,300 people RSVP’d to the pop-up held in September, but thousands of shoppers and urban explorers were turned away due to permits that limited occupancy.
Cordaro said merchandise from N. Sheikh's Divine Lorraine Hotel Collection will be available on Thursday, but the event is not another pop-up shop. He said the focus of the evening should be on the sign, which features all new neon. Visitors will not have access to the lobby during the block party, as it is currently under construction.
“But we will have another opening when the lobby is all complete and we’ll have an opportunity to allow the community to see the lobby in all its grandeur,” Cordaro said. “As soon as that’s complete we’ll be able to reopen for everyone to see.”
Eric Blumenfeld, the developer restoring the Divine Lorraine, has several ideas about why the hotel has become such a Philadelphia icon.
“Perhaps it is the art nouveau style or maybe that it is so visible from so many vantage points,” he said. “Or perhaps it is more about the symbolism of its former decaying status over decades and the hope for its restoration as a centerpiece of redevelopment, or the fear of its demise and the prospects of this great symbol of architecture and history being lost forever.”
“To tell you the truth, I don't know myself, but what I do know is this,” he added. “I have never before experienced the mystical powers of a building as if it is alive in the sense of having a soul. I was taught to believe that buildings are made of bricks and mortar, which I held to believe as truth right up until I myself was hypnotized by the soul of the Divine Lorraine.”
In addition to celebrating the historic building, the event will benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region. Cordaro, who is a “big brother” himself, said Big Brothers Big Sisters is the charity EB Realty believes has the biggest significance in North Philadelphia. Both pop-up shops also benefited Big Brother Big Sisters.
Divine Lorraine Block Party, 4-10 p.m. Thursday, Divine Lorraine, 669 N. Broad St., free.