Many Philadelphians are unaware that the city has ever been home to a Metropolitan Opera House. We often walk or drive down Broad Street barely noticing the large chalky building that reminds you a bit of Old Havana. Well that old building is actually the former home to the Metropolitan Opera House at 858 N. Broad St.
The Met was used as an opera venue until the 1920s, when it became a vaudeville theater, a movie house, a ballroom and later a venue for sports, including boxing, wrestling and basketball.
The building is currently occupied by the Rev. Mark Hatcher Jr. head of the Holy Ghost Church where they occupy the lower level of the building. North Philadelphia Developer Eric Blumenfeld will partner with Rev. Hatcher to redevelop the 104 year old structure built in 1908 by Oscar Hammerstein. Three weeks ago, the two signed an agreement to work together on reviving the old opera house. Hatcher said that at this stage, they are only exploring ideas. Blumenfeld just recently purchased the beautiful Divine Lorain with plans to convert it to apartments with restaurants at the ground level. He also plans to acquire four acres of vacant land behind the Divine Loraine, with hopes of developing it into a campus for four public high schools. The philadelphia School District hasn't been sold on the idea as of yet.
After purchasing the project back in 1996 for $250,000 Hatcher had plans for redevelopment, but due to the need of state and federal funding the plans never surfaced, so he held on to the property, the best way he could patching up holes and cleaning up what he could with the help of his congregation. Now with a forward thinking, money backed partner, hatcher may finally see his investment pay off.
These major plans for development along North Broad Street (Resurrection of the Divine Loraine, Metropolitan Opera House, Casino and Hotel at the Inquire Building, Convention Center, and Numerous other residential and growing restaurant scene) spell a revival in the mist, maybe not to its former glory but perhaps the new North Broad Street "Avenue of the Arts North" may turn out stronger and more vital than its predecessor.