On Saturday, the Inquirer reported that the owners of the Divine Lorraine, a gorgeous yet blighted treasure on North Broad Street, are working to sell the property to a local developer. Tremendous news.

A gem

For the uninitiated, a brief primer on the building:

It was constructed in the last decade of the 19th century, and designed by architect Willis G. Hale (a favorite of GroJLart) in the Victorian style. Originally used as apartments for rich folks, it became a classy hotel within a decade and remained as such until 1948. That year, when it was purchased by Father Divine, it shed its aristocratic air and welcomed guests of all income levels, races, and creeds. It was, notably, one of the first racially integrated hotels in the country. Father Divine opened a soup kitchen on the first floor of the building, and a house of worship in a former banquet hall on the tenth floor. In 2000, Father Divine’s congregation sold the building, and it’s been sold twice since then, most recently in 2006.

The current owners, a team of local developers and companies from Michigan and Holland, developed a plan to renovate the Divine Lorraine and build a massive, mixed use development on the huge lot that sits behind the building. Some additional details of their (totally unfulfilled) plan can be found here. Regrettably, their plan never advanced past the “gut the whole place, which was in relatively good shape for a hundred year old building, and leave it very poorly sealed and easily accessible to vandals and squatters” phase. Over the past five years, the building has rotted, blighting the edge of Francisville and taking some of the shine off of the impressive redevelopment of North Broad Street.

Here are some shots of what she looks like today (well, on Saturday):

View from Ridge Ave., looking north

View from Broad St., again looking north

Closer look

Even closer

First floor

Rear of the building. Vacant lot in the foreground.

So… who is the mystery local developer who is stepping forward to purchase the Divine Lorraine, along with the nearly four-acre lot that sits behind it? Only a handful of builders in this town could handle a project so massive, expensive, and time consuming. Keep in mind, the restoration of the Divine Lorraine will probably be extremely costly but will produce mediocre returns at best. The profit driver on this project will be the development of its enormous backyard.

So… let’s lay some odds, shall we?

3-2: Tower Investments. Easily the favorite. Has the experience, and a HUGE stake in North Broad Street. Could build a new Piazza-type complex.

4-1: Orens Bros. Experience with adaptive reuse, like 1027 Arch St., 2200 Arch St., and 444 N. 4th St. Just starting work on the Croydon in West Philly. Also have a stake in future of North Broad Street, with their involvement with Legendary Blue Horizon.

8-1: Dranoff Properties. Locust on the Park, Left Bank, the Victor were all adaptive reuse projects. 777 S Broad and Symphony House were new construction. But would a project at Broad and Washington take precedence?

15-1: PMC Property Group. Heavily involved with North Broad Street, with 600 and 640 N Broad St. coming to mind. But would partner EB Realty Management get involved with the Divine Lorraine for the second time in a decade? Seems unlikely.

20-1: Grasso Holdings. Packard Building, and Bella Vista Lofts say that they have the experience, but we’re just not feeling it.

25-1: Core Realty. Seems like they have their hands full with Penn Treaty Village, no?

50-1: Regis Group. Bigger than anything they’ve done, from what we can tell.

100-1: Toll Bros. Naval Square North!

1,000,000-1: OCF Holdings. Fed up with Point Breeze, Ori sets his sights on North Broad Street. Or not.

Come one, come all! Place your bets! Hit on a longshot, and you might be able to buy the Divine Lorraine yourself!

For a more thorough history and some additional photos of the Divine Lorraine, click here. Or here. Or, if you must. here.