Years ago, we heard about plans from Eric Blumenfeld of EB Realty to renovate the Divine Lorraine into a museum and build new buildings for four high schools on the vacant land behind it. As you've surely noticed, plans can change quickly in the real estate world. So yeah, none of that is happening. The Divine Lorraine is finally getting renovated, with plans for 109 apartments and retail. As for the vacant land in the rear, the ZBA approved a plan for some additional residential and retail, and it's quite a bit more as a matter of fact.
Learning might not be in the cards for 1300 Fairmount Ave., but living and shopping are coming soon. RAL Development Services will be constructing a significant mixed-use building on this site which we would contend sounds like a far better idea than the other proposal. According to the CDR application, the project will include 486 apartments in a combination of a high rise building and a collection of low rise structures. A large retail space which Plan Philly suggests will be a supermarket will take up a huge first floor footprint. Above the retail space there will be several levels of parking for customers and residents, with 580 parking spots in total. Cope Linder Architects designed the project, and we've got some renderings below:
There's much to like about this project, starting with the fact that it actually offers height and density. Despite the tall structure that's a part of the project, the various setbacks still give the Divine Lorraine room to breathe, preserving views from many directions. The setbacks also provide a transition to the low-rise homes on 13th Street, so it's clear the developers were looking for a holistic project to the extent possible. Also, hooray for mixed-use! A new market would be a great addition here, but we do have some concerns about the viability of supermarkets everywhere, given the recent struggles of Bottom Dollar, A&P, and so on. Then again, if Trader Joe's were to be the tenant, a riot might break out.
Though this project only touches a sliver of Broad Street, it's safe to say that the development is closely connected to the changes and improvements on North Broad Street that have come in the last few years. Of course, development in Francisville and West Poplar are part of the story as well. In the coming years, with this project moving forward and the Divine Lorraine getting renovated, look for continued improvement nearby, both in the neighborhoods and on North Broad Street.