Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Armchair Activists Take on the Divine Lorraine

Caryn Kunkle took to with a dramatic proposal to reclaim the forlorn Divine Lorraine Hotel and transform it into a Contemporary Art Museum. While she makes a valid case for the need to save the landmark historic site, allows armchair activists to blow off steam without an ounce of fact checking. I strongly doubt her claim that Philadelphia makes "more money from the arts than sports, medicine or retail." I'm not sure how she qualifies "the arts," but considering the four professional sports teams within the city limits, plus university athletics, or GSK alone, banking on the arts as Philadelphia's winning income is a stretch.

Don't get me wrong, I sympathize with a lack of investment in the arts, and I have since watching my high school water color paints take a backseat to Turner Ashby football.

Curbed Philly

The problem with these online petitions, particularly when applied to something local, asking for something niche, is they offer false hope to a few motivated individuals instead of practical solutions to real problems. They're a distraction, and developers sitting on property love it.

What has happened to the Divine Miss L. is a tragedy, one that should be illegal. But it's not. Even if succeeded in driving the city to execute imminent domain over the Divine Lorraine, as Kunkle suggests, it would find itself in a costly lawsuit with a very wealthy developer, one who likely has more disposable income than the city itself. Using online petitions to gather signatures only gathers signatures from the laziest of the lazy.

That's not to say grassroots campaigns can't be used to crowd source efforts to save sites like the Divine Lorraine, but grassroots campaigns don't end at the laptop. If you want to use the internet to do something realistic on behalf of this decomposing relic, gather volunteers and cash to board up the building and save it from the elements before L&I orders Blumenfeld to demolish it.

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