FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas
Thomas questions development plans
Says community must be consulted
PHILADELPHIA, March 22 – State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas, D-181, is wary of the latest scheme to develop the historic Divine Lorraine Hotel that sits on Broad Street at Fairmount in his district.
Developer Eric Blumenfeld is the latest to come up with a proposal to develop the National Historic Landmark. Although he doesn’t now own the property, Blumenfeld, who previously owned the property, has been talking to Philadelphia School District officials about clustering four area schools – Masterman, Franklin Learning Center, Ben Franklin and Parkway Center City – on one campus on a lot behind the hotel. According to the plan, the schools would share a cafeteria and gymnasium.
Thomas said a lot of questions need to be answered about this latest proposal.
"First of all, the communities surrounding the hotel have not been consulted about this proposal. How do they feel about this? I would not support any project of this type where the surrounding community is not involved in the planning.
"Second, have the parents of the students been consulted? Members of the parent/teacher associations must be involved. In my opinion, it makes no sense whatsoever to combine four schools on one campus. It’s a recipe for disaster. More importantly, our children need equalization of a comprehensive, quality education first and foremost. I will not support someone’s money-making scheme involving our children’s education."
According to media reports, Blumenfeld has not disclosed whether he is negotiating to purchase the property, but has said he is planning to purchase the lot on 13th Street behind the hotel for the new school. His plan also includes working with an arts collective to turn the hotel into an art museum that would offer arts education to the students.
"To date, neither students nor parents, residents of the West Poplar community, Senator Farnese nor I have been consulted about another experiment with young people," said Thomas. "It was not that long ago that the School District of Philadelphia and the city spent millions of dollars for architectural renderings and studies to relocate the Franklin Learning Center on this same land. The relocation never happened. Today, we have two huge lots filled with trash, high weeds, debris and maybe bodies on these lots. Mr. Eric Blumenfeld did not keep the lots cleaned when he owned the Divine building before. It is time to develop and implement a comprehensive education plan for high school students in North-Central Philadelphia. The students and parents of North-Central Philadelphia are experimented out. We are still waiting for implementation of a plan for William Penn High School which is already in place."
Thomas said he does not support Blumenfeld’s plan and that a comprehensive development plan with community input needs to be in place.
"Before we come up with a master facilities plan we need to develop a community economic development ideology with community input. This community needs job training and economic opportunity. Bottom line -- we are not interested in another hodge podge experiment using our children."