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Divine Lorraine Hotel has Seen More Attention this Year than in Over Decade
  by: iradioal - Philadelphia, PA
started: 03/25/12 10:27 pm | updated: 03/25/12 10:27 pm
Earlier this year, the city of Philadelphia and Mayor Nutter began to pressure the current owners and developers of the Divine Lorraine Hotel at Broad Street and Fairmount Ave in North Philadelphia to do something with the historic building that is failing into disrepair. Empty for over a decade, it is becoming an eyesore in the Mayor's opinion and a blockade to North Broad's revival.

The Divine Lorraine was built between 1892 and 1894 and housed some of Philadelphia's wealthiest residents as an apartment building. It featured amenities such as electricity, a 10 story high rise, and its own staff with central kitchen that would serve meals. In 1948, it was sold to Father Divine, who ran the hotel under his Universal Peace Mission Movement. It was the first racially integrated hotel of it's class. Guests had to follow the rules of no smoking, no drinking, no profanity, and no undue mixing of the sexes.

The building was closed in 1999. The current owners bought the property from EB Realty Management in 2006 which in includes the hotel and 3.7 open acres behind the building. They are a group including local builder Michael Treacy Jr. and the Dutch company Sunergy Housing. Their intention was to convert the building into apartments but development has stalled, derailed by the economic downturn of the late '00's.

Several plans have popped up the last few weeks. One potential plan comes from Eric Blumenfeld of EB Realty, the former owner, who wishes to build a combined campus for four area schools: Masterman School, Franklin Learning Center, Benjamin Franklin High School, and Parkway Center City High.

Another potential plan comes from Caryn Kunkle who hopes to be able to create a Philadelphia Interactive Museum of Contemporary Art inside the hotel.

Now with all the pressure from the city and Mayor to do something, the current owners and their mortgage holder, Amalgamated Bank, are trying to get bids to unload the building.

Philadelphia-based bidders are Turchi Inc., Pennrose Properties, and EB Realty Management. All three of which have expressed interest in the site at some point in the past, but deals have not gone through.

Last week a fire was set on the top floor of the hotel which fire fighters had to scale the inside of the dilapidated building to extinguish. Following that that incident, the city issued a "repair or demolish" order. It did not intend to demolish the Divine Lorraine, however it allowed them to go in and seal the building off, especially to graffiti artists, squatters, and urban adventurers who may cause trouble. All of the attention lately would only increase the likelihood of trespassing, so the fences were tightened, windows masoned, doored boarded, etc.

I first saw/heard of the Divine Lorraine Hotel about 12 years ago when I decided to cut across North Philly by driving down Ridge Ave from Manayunk. I saw the building ahead as I approached Broad St and was stricken by this enormous Victorian 'skyscraper' with an old Hollywood sign. I was vexed that I lived here my whole life and never seen nor heard of this building, but I'm glad I have.

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