Flipping the Divine Lorraine

DLH.gifOn my way to Temple Law from my home in Center City Philadelphia there sits the Divine Lorraine Hotel, famous as a symbol of the City’s ever-crumbling, once-proud glory. It sits on Broad street within view of City Hall, but has been shuttered and uninhabited for years. Now, for the third time this decade, a developer has bought the building. The last developer apparently made around a 100% profit in a little under three years (bought: $5.8 M; sold $10.1 M), riding Philly’s marvelous real estate bubble boom reasoned uptick. The purchaser reports that the project will take about five years and is “extremely likely to happen… . It seems like a lot of nothing has happened there, but everyone has advanced the ball.”

Before we get too excited about the reclamation of this landmark, recall that this is Philadelphia. It’s been over a year since the last petty-ante municipal corruption investigation, so we’re due. And I’m sure the electrician’s union will come nosing around. Moreover, the new developer appears to be making a bet that Temple will continue to increase student enrollment over the next few years, and that a few of those students will want to live somewhere cheap, compared to center city, but lively, compared to campus. This seems like a big bet to make, given recent changes on campus.

So, I’m skeptical.

But if the renovation of the hotel pays off, it would be fantastic: restoring the Divine Lorraine would be a real feather in the cap of the City. It would be the last piece of the revitalization of downtown that has been percolating over the last decade.

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6 Responses

  1. Liz Longstreth says:

    As a lifelong Philadelphian, I encourage others to support the mini-Renaissance Center City has enjoyed over the past few years. To maintain this growth, and for developers to see the housing demand actually meet their expectations, the City has to implement some tax reforms: reduce or eliminate the business privilege tax, and reduce the city wage tax. (And quit being so corrupt!) The current tax structure is simply driving away small business and residents, thus reducing the tax base.


    So, Professor Hoffman, I guess it’s like betting against the Eagles: you win even if they lose. But, of course, it’s always better when they win.

  2. David S. Cohen says:

    I agree Dave – I think it’s a big bet as the location is sort of in an in-between no-man’s land.

    For those interested in seeing some pictures of the inside, the City Paper did a story you can read here. And, to read about one Philadelphian’s exploration of the inside of the building on his own time, check out this thread from a music message board about it. You need to register to see the pictures, I believe, but if you follow the posts from poster “passthemuffins,” you can read the account of the expedition.

  3. Salil Mehra says:

    I think the higher price flips of the Divine Lorraine may actually be reasonable given what has happened in recent years. The Divine Loraine occupies a key intersection (Broad, Fairmount and Ridge) with a subway stop that is in a yet-to-be-redeveloped zone in the middle of three areas where the boom is occurring — and the DL just 3 to 6 blocks from each of these areas.

    Fairmount is now pretty gentrified as far east as 17th Street, so Broad (effectively 14th street for non-Philadelphians) is a hop, skip and jump, and the DL is maybe 6 minutes from Center City via the subway station facing it across Broad.

    Fairmount and Broad is basically a 6-point intersection with Ridge, and 3 blocks further south on Ridge the “reasoned uptick” has already reached Ridge and Spring Garden.

    Temple’s own mini-uptick is only 6 or 7 blocks north of the DL.

  4. Dee says:

    I read that the Divine Lorraine is up for sale again. Here’s the link; read the second to last paragraph(http://www.preservationalliance.com/news_divine_2.php). I don’t live in Philly but most of my family does. I plan to move here after I finish grad school. I love this city and I wish it would thrive and show its potential. I’ll remain hopeful.

  5. ILoveYouDivineLorraine says:

    I really hope they don’t turn the beautiful DL Hotel into some kind of student housing. Students are cool and all, but the DL deserves better than to be a transitory living space. It could be such an incredible re-hab project if the right decisions are made. It could be the very thing that allows more N. Philly rehabilitation to occur. I am all for making a percentage affordable (allowing some of the current N. Philly residents ownership and allowing brave souls willing to take the chance on the neighborhood to actually purchase there). But this should not be a low-income restoration. This building is more important than that. And please let’s not put in a bunch of ugly multicolored carpeting. It should be all monochromes. Greys, creams, whites, golds, pinks. OR reds, blacks and golds. If they would let me, I’d buy in right NOW. If anything, this could be a developed into a space for artists. Philly wants to connect the South and North sections of “The Avenue of the Arts,” what better way? Picture galleries and shops and a few restaurants (small wonderful places, not chains!) on the ground floor, and condos and art studios in the rest of the building. The DL could then serve as a landmark connection of the S. Broad Avenue of the Arts & the N. Broad Ave. That way, there would be more than just some dumb signs indicating that Philly wants the Avenue to extend North. Please let’s not let this all go to waste. Who owns this anyway, I want to work for them and help them do the Divine thing for the Lorraine!

  6. Mike says:

    I was wondering the same thing. Who owns this building now? It is a beautiful building with great potential if put in the right hands (with very deep pockets).