North Philly redevelopment project gets financial nudge with Pa. grant

 With a grant from Pennsylvania, it appears long-stalled plans fore renovation of the landmark Divine Lorraine Hotelare about to move forward. The hotel is at the center of a  comprehensive plan for revitalizing part of North Broad Street. (NewsWorks file photo)

With a grant from Pennsylvania, it appears long-stalled plans fore renovation of the landmark Divine Lorraine Hotelare about to move forward. The hotel is at the center of a comprehensive plan for revitalizing part of North Broad Street. (NewsWorks file photo)

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.”

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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.

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