By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor
After years of failed renovation attempts and a recent announcement that a sale is imminent, Philadelphia’s Divine Lorraine Hotel and the adjacent lot could be turned into a center for art and public education.
The redevelopment idea belongs to Eric Blumenfeld who, ironically, was part of the joint venture that acquired the Divine Lorraine Hotel in 2003 for $5.3 million. As the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, he is working with local artist Caryn Kunkle, director of the Philadelphia Salon arts collective, on a plan that would merge four nearby schools into one learning facility and also create a “museum triangle” connecting the Divine Lorraine with Philadelphia’s art museums.
Under Eric Blumenfeld’s vision, the Divine Lorraine would reunite the overcrowded Masterman School, the Franklin Learning Center, Benjamin Franklin High and Parkway Center City High and, after some redevelopment work, would feature a shared gymnasium, a cafeteria and a state-of-the-art science lab.
Though he hasn’t announced any plans to purchase the hotel building itself, Eric Blumenfeld—president and owner of the foreclosed Marine Club Condominiums—seeks state and federal tax exemptions to buy the adjacent four-acre lot, build the learning facility and then lease it back to the school district.
The developer’s idea comes right before March 29, when the School Reform Commission will decide whether to shut down nine schools by the end of 2012. According to the Inquirer, Benjamin Franklin High, which accommodates only 600 students in a building designed for 1,800, was not included in the final version of the facilities master Ppan. Eric Blumenfeld has met with the schools’ principals and city officials, but more details will need to be revealed by the developer before any decision is taken.
If the project proves successful, the vacant school buildings could be sold or turned into apartment facilities, possibly under Blumenfeld’s plans as well.
Photo credits Smallbones, Wikipedia, under a Creative Commons license