After closing in 1999, North Philadelphia’s most famous historical site, the Divine Lorraine Hotel, opened its doors to the public yesterday for its groundbreaking. Over 1000 people stood in line for the chance to be a part of history and see the abandoned hotel.
The groundbreaking featured a pop-up shop starring a sneak peak of Philadelphia clothing designer Najeeb Sheikh’s second Divine Lorraine Hotel Collection, a new graffiti mural by local street artist NoseGo, and a recreation of the iconic rooftop sign by Fishtown artist Drew Leshko all in the hotel’s picturesque lobby.
After Philadelphia developer and realtor Eric Blumenfeld discovered the first Divine Lorraine clothing line, he got in contact with Sheikh about opening up the lobby to the public and making a second collection.
Blumenfeld has taken on the project of renovating and reopening the hotel, built in the 1890s, with over 100 luxury apartments and over 20,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space using the old hotel’s original skeleton. The redevelopment is expected to cost $44 million with hopes to revitalize North Broad Street.
Sheikh plans on donating ten percent of the proceeds made from the collection to Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania with the funds going directly to Benjamin Franklin High School and Franklin Learning Center, two North Philadelphia schools.
“We were given the opportunity to direct our funds and we wanted to make sure that the money goes directly back into this community,” Sheikh said. “The money is going to stay here in North Philly. That was the goal.”
Marketing director for the collection, Brooks Bell, did not nearly expect the turnout that they received.
“The night we made the Facebook event, we were joking that we hoped to hit 300 people attending. When I went to bed at 2 a.m. it was at 1000 and the next day it was 3000,” Bell said.
Over 7,300 people said they were attending the event on Facebook.
The Divine Lorraine renovation is projected to take two years to complete.