Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Not So Divine News

Local newspapers continue to blame the Divine Lorraine's shambled status on a decade without tenants. It's important to point out this falsehood because the Divine Lorraine's current status is the result of a corrupt City Council member catering to an overzealous neighborhood organization, and an irresponsible owner.

This Diamond in the Rough on North Broad Street was well maintained during the decade it sat vacant and without tenants. Historic fixtures remained in place, the grand marble lobby was preserved under a thin layer of dust, and a penthouse auditorium kept its stage and original upholstered theater seats.

It wasn't until Michael Treacy, Jr. stepped in following a storm of development success and prematurely gutted the gem in an attempt to beat the recession.

It's not all his fault. Neighborhood organizations have been fighting the gentrification of North Broad Street and anything with the word "luxury", and Councilman Clarke has been more than willing to give them his support. His anti-development movement is evident across the Fifth District.

During the building's hiatus, it could have hardly been held to the standards of your typical 21st Century condo buyers who fixated on stainless steel and granite, but it was completely habitable. More damage was inflicted on the Divine Lorraine from six months of neglect than during a decade of vacancy. Now with Lorraine completely devoid of soul, Treacy is asking the state for $3.4M to convert what's left of her into subsidized senior housing.

Ten years ago a few simple updates like central air and a fresh coat of paint would have been all that was needed to convert this into subsidized housing, and most importantly the Divine Lorraine wouldn't have been turned into a hallow shell.

I wonder how much Treacy made scrapping the building's historic detail. Now, knowing that residents treasure this building, he's pleading with the state for more cash to "save" it. I'm all for securing the Divine Lorraine from deteriorating any further, and I'd rather it serve any purpose than none at all, but this situation reeks of Philadelphia's institutionalized corruption. He has the money to develop this project himself, and Philadelphia has the authority to tell him to do so. If he doesn't want to move forward without pocketing a little state money, then step aside and let someone else have at it.


  1. My dad sent me an email yesterday about the recent developments going on over there. This makes me both angry and sad. Stupid greedy bastards.

  2. I'm sure a lot of people - myself included - are just happy to see something being done with this place so that it doesn't deteriorate any further. Unfortunately the developer knows this and is using it as leverage to get state money, basically saying, "unless you want to see this building knocked down, give me money."

    I feel that many other cities would have forced this out of his hands a while ago and sought out another developer, perhaps Temple University, who I am sure would have had an interest in the Divine Lorraine were it not for all the Red Tape created by the current developer and City Council.