By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A residential and retail development that's being called a "game changer" for North Philadelphia today received preliminary approval in City Council, and it could bring new life to a long-shuttered next door neighbor, the Divine Lorraine Hotel.
Two Council committees have signed off on plans for a high-rise apartment building and grocery store on the long-vacant parcel at 13th Street and Fairmount Avenue.
The developer, RAL Companies, of New York, says the plans are preliminary, but their attorney, Matt McClure (at right in photo), told City Council's rules committee that whatever form the project takes, its size -- and impact -- will be tremendous.
"It's a 750,000-square-foot project that is going to be on North Broad, on four acres that are behind the Divine Lorraine," he said. "This is one of the largest development sites close to center city Philadelphia. The project is going to involve an 83,000-square-foot supermarket, which is going to be one of the largest supermarkets in the Philadelphia area."
McClure said RAL Companies is currently in negotiations with a well known grocery operator for the site, and the project will also include nearly 500 market-rate apartments.
"We believe this is going to be a game-changer for the area," McClue said.
City Council president Darrell Clarke, whose district includes the site, is thrilled about the project.
"This is a project that will stimulate the development of the Divine Lorraine Hotel, which is adjacent to that. And I think that this particular section of town is on the cusp of some significant development opportunities. This is really going to take North Broad to another level," Clarke told KYW Newsradio.
The Divine Lorraine was shuttered more than a decade ago, and efforts to revive the site so far have failed.
Clarke says the current owner, EB Realty Management, hopes to also turn it into residential units and retail, and he says the 13th and Fairmount project will help this other developer get financing.
"The Divine Lorraine probably gets its financing enhanced by the other development. And the other development gets enhanced next to a historical marker such as the Divine Lorraine. So I think it's win-win for all," Clarke said.
And he said he hopes for a further announcement on plans for the Divine Lorraine "within the next several weeks."
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