To virtually no one's surprise, developer Eric Blumenfeld has now acquired the title to the Divine Lorraine Hotel, Philadelphia's most famous abandoned building and the endlessly fetishized subject of photo essays, movies, academic papers, citywide debates, cultish adoration, and mayoral declarations about the city's renewal. Indeed, it's not a stretch to say that this building, more than any other in Philadelphia, has exerted an almost hypnotic hold on the city's imagination.
Despite rumors of other interested bidders, it became clear rather early on that Blumenfeld, son of real esate magnate Jack Blumenfeld, was on the inside track. He garnered City Hall's support due to his proven track record on North Broad, where despite the skeptics, he took an abandoned building and turned it into 640 North Broad, an apartment building with Marc Vetri's destination restaurant Osteria. (Now he makes $2 million a year from that building alone.) He converted the Wilkie Buick dealership into into another foodie haven: Stephen Starr's Route 6 and Vetri's Alla Spina. He's bought other properties along this stretch that he has big plans for, including the Metropolitan Opera House. More than anyone else in Philadelphia, Blumenfeld has made it his mission to transform a rather desolate, ignored area into the next Place to Be.
Blumenfeld's plan for the building, according to the latest Inquirer piece, is to have 125 loft apartments, as well as new restaurants on the bottom two floors. Rumors have been swirling for weeks that Iron Chef Jose Garces—who owns 15 restaurants in Philadelphia, Palm Springs, Chicago, Scottsdale and yes, Atlantic City (go Revel!)—would be one of the restaurateurs to open there. The developer has now confirmed he's working with Garces and current North Broad partner Marc Vetri (Amis, Osteria, Vetri, Alla Spina) on the plans.
· The Divine Lorraine Hotel on North Broad Street has a new owner: developer Eric Blumenfeld [Inquirer]
· Blumenfeld says he'll develop Divine Lorraine, Metropolitan Opera House [Daily News]
· Curbed Philly Divine Lorraine Archives [CPHI]
· Eric Blumenfeld Is Crazy Enough to Revitalize North Broad Street [Philadelphia magazine]