The Divine Lorraine isn't the only beleaguered relic on Philadelphia's once - and briefly - grand North Broad Street. And I'm not just referring to the building's time worn glory, but also the development hell in which it sits.
The Metropolitan Opera House, which is probably more remembered for its role in 12 Monkeys than any opera it ever showed, stands nearby, barely recognizable from its former panache.
Both are owned by developer Eric Blumenfeld, and both sit under giant question marks.
The Metropolitan Opera House's ownership is a unique headache. Previously owned by the Holy Ghost Headquarters Revival Center at the Met, Inc.," presided over by Reverend Mark Hatcher, many were under the impression that the theater's renovation was to be a joint venture between the church and the developer.
Say what you will about an "incorporated" church, the agreement certainly reeks of a shady deal.
According to a recent article in the Daily News, Hatcher relinquished the $20M building's title to Blumenfeld for $1 in 2013. Whether or not the deal was insidious will be up to the courts. Hatcher is currently suing Eric Blumenfeld for fraud.
Considering developers typically have a team of lawyers allocated to just this sort of claim, it may come down to one very expensive case of "seller beware." But as ridiculous as it is that a church is operating out of the basement of a building so large, and as naive as Hatcher may have been to assume that Blumenfeld ever saw a place for his church in such a costly project, I doubt Blumenfeld will ultimately wind up keeping the title for $1.
But just look at the building's condition. There is no way the building's proposed $10M renovation could cover the cost of truly restoring the opera house without divine intervention, perhaps something Hatcher was hoping for.
Philadelphia has demolished bigger buildings in better condition, and in better neighborhoods well within the 21st Century. Did Eric Blumenfeld ever intend on getting into the theater business, or did he take advantage of someone sitting on a piece of property in a part of the city just begging to pop?