North Broad Street’s Divine Lorraine may soon see signs of life. The long-neglected 12-story structure is the focus of Mayor Michael Nutter’s efforts to revitalize the burgeoning corridor, he announced at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon yesterday. “Part of this strategy is to identify where we can work together, and where the government can also spur growth and development,” he said. “And I have just the place to start: We are actively pursuing opportunities to finally transform the Divine Lorraine.”
Built in the late 1800s as luxurious apartments for the wealthy and later converted into a hotel operated by controversial religious leader Father Divine of the Universal Peace Mission Movement, the Divine Lorraine has long fallen into disrepair, marred by graffiti, broken windows and boarded-up entryways. But that will soon change, Nutter said.
“As I speak, there is a renewed interest in the Divine Lorraine with my team — and City Council President Clarke — directly involved in the rebirth of this great Philadelphia building.”
According to the Office of Property Assessment, the Divine Lorraine is currently owned by Center City-based Lorraine Hotel LLP, but the phone number for the firm was disconnected.
Deputy Mayor for Commerce and Economic Development Alan Greenberger said it was too soon to discuss possible buyers.
“There are active conversations,” he said. “Because of how big it is and the floor plans, it lends itself to residential-type development. What kind, we don’t know, whether it’s a hotel or apartments. The question is finding someone who can do that.”
He said that its restoration is definitely on the agenda for the mayor’s final four years in office. “The mayor and I are determined to get it done,” Greenberger said, “because, if not, it’s a big, tall billboard of blight.”
Other items on Nutter’s agenda included strategies to attract and retain people and businesses:
Revitalizing Market Street East by “creating a walkable boulevard from City Hall to the river.”
Opening the relocated Barnes Museum, which “will soon make Philadelphia the art capital of the world.”
Breaking ground on Dilworth Plaza renovation, which, when completed, “will rival the parks of Paris, London and Rome.”
Hayne given Powell award by City Trusts
Urban Outfitters’ Chief Executive Officer Richard Hayne was presented with the Edward Powell award, which is given out by The Board of Directors of City Trusts once every four years recognizing a city business leader.
Hayne founded Urban Outfitters in West Philadelphia in 1970. It has since grown to include three multimillion-dollar brands.
He donated the accompanying $100,000 check to Drexel University’s Baiada Center for Entrepreneurship.
“I hope someone who uses that award will some day be up here receiving this award,” he said.