Divine Lorraine becomes a hotel again and will not renew existing apartment leases

The Hôtel Divine Lorraine is reconnecting with its roots.

The iconic North Broad Street building, which reopened as apartments in 2017 after a $44 million renovation, will once again be a ‘managed hotel property’, building manager EB Realty has told residents in an email this week.

Developer Eric Blumenfeld, owner of the building, did not respond to text messages requesting an interview, and the building’s leasing manager did not return phone calls.

Emails were first reported by Billy Penn.

The 130-year-old Victorian-style building is one of the best-known in the city, rising 11 stories above North Philadelphia with a huge red luminescent sign bearing its name.

Built in 1892, it was heralded as the first high-rise luxury apartments by architect Willis G. Hale, and became a hotel eight years later. George Baker, who called himself Father Major Jealous Divine of the International Peace Mission Movement, purchased the tower in 1948. It became one of the first racially inclusive hotels in the United States.

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Divine died in 1965 and for the next 34 years served as the headquarters of her movement, with the lower levels serving as an affordable dining room for the public.

In 1999 the building closed and remained vacant for 16 years. Although the building the terracotta tile floor kept it from rottingit has become a popular spot for trespassers and graffiti artists, and a symbol of plague along Philly’s North Corridor.

In 2012, Blumenfeld bought the building for around $2.1 million plus $800,000 in debt. Blumenfeld envisioned the space as housing restaurants, shops, hotel rooms, and rentals. It invested $44 million in renovations, and in early 2017 tenants moved in.

Five years later, EB Realty Management Corp. – led by Blumenfeld – told residents their leases were not up for renewal as the building plans to become a “managed hotel property” in the “coming months”. He did not specify a timetable.

At least 24 units are currently in use as hotel rooms, which cost around $385 per night for a two-bedroom suite.

the the building’s website says 91 of the 101 one- and two-bedroom apartments, which cost around $1,800 a month, are occupied. Cicala, an upscale Italian restaurant, is on the ground floor.

It’s unclear whether the building will hire a hotel group to manage the property or rent out the units as Airbnbs. Public records show that in March the building received a commercial building permit and plumbing permits to install at least 10 new kitchen sinks and bathrooms. Plans submitted with these permits are not publicly available.

Blumfeld co-invested in a $58 million renovation of the Metropolitan Opera House, now operated as The Met concert venue, in 2013 and retains a majority stake in the property.

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