If any recent redevelopment project in Philadelphia has felt like a slam dunk, it’s been the Divine Lorraine. The hyped old hotel on North Broad Street long ago jumped from cult classic to nearly a city institution, spawning a fashion collection and attracting thousands of visitors for its groundbreaking in 2015.
There’s just one problem: Not many people want to live there so far.
As of May 30, according to the Divine Lorraine’s website, 33 apartments have been rented for 2017, with 68 still available. That’s only nine more than in mid-February, when 24 had been rented. It’s also about 20 fewer than developer Eric Blumenfeld said were taken in December, when he said “more than half are spoken for.” TCS Management in January, when the Divine Lorraine opened, also told Curbed Philly 46 apartments were rented.
So what’s going on?
Blumenfeld spoke briefly with Billy Penn Tuesday before saying he’d call back after an upcoming meeting. He did not call Tuesday afternoon or respond to a message Wednesday morning. Before the conversation Tuesday, we had attempted to contact Blumenfeld multiple times.
Asked about his thoughts on 33 apartments being leased so far and his earlier statement of more than half being spoken for, he brought up the apartment complex’s lobby, which is still under construction.
“We were a little behind in the lobby and were considering not doing any move-ins until we finished the lobby,” Blumenfeld said. “I would’ve been tarred and feathered because so many people just wanted to move in. I felt like we sort of were asking people to live in a construction zone.”
A tour of the building during a March open house revealed a few other possible issues with the property. Some rooms have bathroom or closet doors that don’t open all the way because they hit a fixed piece of furniture. Others have no outside-facing windows, instead facing other walls several feet away and not letting in an optimal amount of sunlight.
Divine Lorraine apartments, according to Trulia, range in price from the lowest one-bedroom at $1,480 to the most-expensive two-bedroom at $2,695. That number is above typical residences in the area but comparable to luxury apartments. The Divine Lorraine bills itself as a luxury apartment complex.
Blumenfeld said he expected the plaster work on the lobby to be completed in about two weeks. The lobby, when finished, is supposed to look similar to how it did 100 years ago (see Curbed Philly for pictures of progress). He said six people have been working on it for the last six months.
“It’s got to be perfect,” Blumenfeld said. “It’s the Divine Lorraine.”