TWO ICONIC buildings on North Broad Street apparently are now in the hands of the same developer.
Eric Blumenfeld has reacquired the Divine Lorraine Hotel and has reached an agreement to develop the nearby Metropolitan Opera House as well, he said Tuesday.
Blumenfeld took title of the abandoned hotel, a blighted beauty targeted by vandals for years, at a sheriff’s sale Tuesday. Construction is to begin in January to convert the 10-story building into 125 loft apartments on the upper floors and new restaurants on the first two floors.
“I’m working with [restaurateurs] Marc Vetri and Jose Garces and I’m hoping to have a third [restaurant owner] as well,” Blumenfeld said.
On Monday, in the first stage of taking control of the Divine Lorraine, Blumenfeld purchased outstanding debt from New York-based Amalgamated Bank.
Blumenfeld declined to say how much he paid for the note, but the Inquirer put the value of the mortgage, back city taxes and other liens at more than $8 million.
The Divine Lorraine, at Fairmount Avenue, was built in 1892 as the luxury Lorraine Apartments and was one of the city’s first high-rises for the wealthy. Years later, it was the first Philadelphia hotel to be racially integrated.
Blumenfeld said reacquiring the hotel – which he had bought before in 2003 for $5.8 million and then sold to a group of developers in 2006 – is key to remaking North Broad. “The Divine Lorraine represents the real transformation of the corridor,” he said.
Blumenfeld already has put his stamp on North Broad by developing two apartment buildings and several restaurants in or near former clothing factories north of Spring Garden Street.
Now, he said, he is working with the owners of the Metropolitan Opera House, at Poplar Street, to come up with a plan to bring the old opera house back to life.
“I never shy away from a challenge,” Blumenfeld said.
He said he signed a partnership agreement with the Holy Ghost Headquarters Revival Center, which owns the Met, in the past couple of months.
The church’s pastor, Rev. Mark Hatcher, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The Divine Lorraine got its name after the charismatic preacher, Father Divine, bought the Lorraine Hotel in 1948.