For 15 years, the abandoned, decaying Divine Lorraine Hotel has loomed over North Broad Street, casting a long shadow on the North Philadelphia neighborhood. With confirmation of a state grant last week, nearly all of the funding for a renovation project is in place, and construction could begin this fall.
Pennsylvania’s $3.5 million grant for the project — part of the Redevelopment Assistance Capital program — was actually promised to developer Eric Blumenfeld near the end of the Corbett administration. Governor Tom Wolf only reconfirmed it last week.
Blumenfeld called the grant a significant piece of the puzzle for figuring out how to cover the nearly $44 million renovation costs.
“Bottom line, the state’s help was significant,” said Blumenfeld. “I’ve never worked on a project like this where everybody has a vested interest, everybody wants to see this happen. This would not have happened without the support of the city and the state.”
Philadelphia’s Deputy Mayor of Economic Development Alan Greenberger said that while the grant might amount to just a small part of the total construction costs, every little bit helps.
“It’s a significant piece of money,” said Greenberger. “It’s a vote of confidence in the project. It’s often hard to pull together complete financing for projects because banks and investors only typically go so far.”
Blumenfeld, who bought the 120-year-old blighted building in 2012, has already secured another $31.5 million in loans from Procida Funding, as well as an $8 million tax grant. He plans to remake the landmark hotel into a 126-unit apartment building with a 20,000 square-foot retail space on the ground floor.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, but right now we’ve got a lot of momentum,” said Blumenfeld. “I think we’re going to create a lot of jobs, and you’re going to see a lot of new life on North Broad Street.”
He said the only roadblock left is the approval of final project permits, and he estimated groundbreaking in July.
This disclosure: WHYY has received funding through the RCAP program.