Divine Lorraine retrospective: Restoration anticipation

To contextualize how momentous today’s Divine Lorraine groundbreaking is, consider that a search for Divine Lorraine stories on PlanPhilly turned up 103 results, totaling 11 pages of content. Some of these are just stray mentions of the iconic north Broad Street hotel in our morning news links, events, or meeting agendas, but still: that’s a lot of writing in nine years about one building.

We pulled out some of our favorite pieces from the trove of PlanPhilly stories we’ve racked up over the years to commemorate today’s important occasion, for your reflecting and (re)reading pleasure:

Divine Dreams, Nightmares:

Michael Nutter explained back in early 2012 why his administration thinks bringing the Divine Lorraine back into use is so critical to North Broad Street’s other investment prospects and he promised action to make it happen.

After that, some violation notices began to appear on the building, there was a small fire, and then the city sealed up the building. Some people hoped the passage of the state’s historic preservation tax credit would speed the Divine Lorraine’s redevelopment timetable, but Ashley Hahn poured cold water on that idea explaining that the credit wasn’t nearly big enough to matter.

History Repeating:

In the background of all this, rumors swirled as to who would acquire the building. Then in October of 2012, Eric Blumenfeld, who had previously owned the building as part of a group of investors until 2006, snagged it at a Sheriff’s sale as the only bidder.

Context Matters:

We helped bring some additional color to the saga with posts like the photo of the Divine Lorraine from 1954 that Ashley Hahn dug up as part of our occasional Midcentury Philly photo series, and Alan Jaffe’s appreciation of its architect Willis Hale, who also designed Keystone National Bank building at 13th and Chestnut.

Forward Progress:

In 2014, excitement started to build as the sign was re-illuminated. After that the requisite, dry approval processes plodded on, lighting up our traffic numbers with each tiny step forward.

Earlier this year Jared Brey reported that Blumenfeld finally had the financing locked up, and other developers are already looking at another big mixed-use project rightin Divine Lorraine’s back yard, no doubt emboldened by the (warranted) hype from the Divine Lorraine’s promised restoration. 

That’s why the Nutter administration thought this was so important back in 2012. The restoration of major anchors like the Divine Lorraine and the Beury building will signal to investors that North Broad is on the upswing, providing a confidence boost in the corridor that unlocks many other smaller projects.

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