Eric Blumenfeld visited City Hall on Tuesday to present his plans for renovating the former Divine Lorraine Hotel on North Broad Street to the Architectural Committee of the Historical Commission.
The renovation plans, summarized by Philly Mag last week, include a sunken outdoor garden area on the south side of the building and a small handful of restaurants along the ground floor. The upper floors will be reworked into 109 apartment units. Blumenfeld secured the last of the funding he needed for the renovation last month with a loan from the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority.
On Tuesday, the architectural committee voted to approve the renovation design plans. In doing so, it recommended replacing some of the missing ornamental statues (not necessarily with the same materials), using limestone to fill out the base of the building (while differentiating the look from the rest of the building by using a different finish), using wood-framed windows on the lower floors and aluminum-framed windows on the upper floors, and restoring the sign with neon.
They also recommended that no mechanical equipment for heating and cooling should be visible from any public right-of-way. And they asked that the developers work with Commission staff to develop the rest of the design details.
Blumenfeld said that he welcomed the committee’s comments, and that he’s trying to balance the requests of the local and state historical commissions as well as those of the National Parks Service. He said he’s also trying to nail down a “guaranteed maximum price contract” with the contractor for the project.
Blumenfeld—who previously owned the building, then sold it, then bought it back—is hoping to begin the renovation work next month. He said that if the timing works out, he hopes to turn the old neon sign back on at the same moment that the city finally illuminates those light poles being installed along North Broad Street.
“North Broad Street is not about the Divine Lorraine,” Blumenfeld said. “It’s about an entire corridor, of which the Divine Lorraine is the centerpiece.”
The full Historical Commission will review the plans at its next meeting, on August 14th.