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At the Divine Lorraine, the grand lobby’s return awaits

See how much the grand lobby has changed in the last year

The exterior of the Divine Lorraine Hotel in Philadelphia. The facade is brown brick and there is an arched entryway.
The historic Divine Lorraine’s full facade has been unveiled.
Photos by Melissa Romero

At the Divine Lorraine on North Broad, the two iconic lights atop the apartment building have been shining since November, and residents have been moving into their new homes in the historic building since January 1. Now, all that’s really left for the $44 million restoration project is the return of its grand lobby.

“People are ready for the lobby to be finished,” property manager Ed Casella said during a recent visit to the Divine Lorraine, which was designed by Willis G. Hale and originally opened in 1884 as apartments.

“They’ve been super supportive of the process, but we’ve really tried to curtail the presence of construction because this is now a place where people actually live.”

Indeed, the last time we checked in on the Divine Lorraine’s status was in January, when EB Realty and TCS Management were making a big push to rent the remaining units. At Casella’s most recent count, 35 of the 101 units have been rented, with a surprising amount of tenants who are from out of town.

“We’re poised to have an extremely productive May, June, and July leasing season,” Casella remarked.

Here’s how the lobby and facade of the Divine Lorraine have drastically changed over the past year. The before photos were taken in May 2016.

In December 2016, the north-facing and front facade of the Divine Lorraine were unveiled looking nearly brand new. Now, all of the scaffolding has been removed from the south-facing side, exposing the full facade of the stone building and the annex. The plan to turn the annex into a boutique hotel is still being worked out, according to Casella.

The plaster work in the Divine Lorraine’s lobby is expected to be finished in three to four weeks, Casella said. A wall made of windows and wood will be added to the center of the lobby, separating the residents’ front desk area from the commercial space in the front. CBRE is still in the process of finalizing commercial tenants, which will set up shop on the left and right of the lobby. “We’ve been regularly showing the commercial spaces and are really confident we’ll hit a home run soon,” said Casella, going on to acknowledge that the lobby’s current state may have played a role in the wait. “I think a lot of people are waiting on the lobby to see how their business will fit into the plan.”

The handrails and spindles along the winding staircases were completely remade. The historic preservation efforts have been led by Powers & Company and architect Richard W. Sauder.

As Curbed Philly noted before, the original front desk was removed and will be replaced by two oval, custom-made desks, complemented with a new chandelier hanging above. Behind the desks will be an ADA door entrance.

One of the units on the 10th floor is a bi-level, two-bedroom apartment that was originally part of the building’s grand hall. Although the immense space was broken into apartments, the design kept the cathedral ceilings intact. This corner unit—one of the most expensive in the building at $3,000-plus/month—has three walls of windows that have views spanning from the Ben Franklin Bridge to Center City to North Philly.

Divine Lorraine Hotel

699 N Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19123