A world-renowned boxing venue once honored by Sports Illustrated as “the last great boxing venue in the country” is slated to be renovated into a $23 million hotel, jazz club, restaurant and event venue just south of Main Campus, estimated by developers to open in 2015.
The Blue Horizon will feature upwards of 90 rooms with murals depicting past boxing events that took place when it was open as a boxing arena, two developers said. The interior will be modeled by Hotel Indigo, a chain of boutique hotels that will manage the hotel and restaurant when it opens. The jazz club will also include a bar with live music and entertainment.
The venue, a four-story structure on the 1300 block of North Broad Street, was built in 1865 and hosted fights from 1960 to 2010, featuring names such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Bernard Hopkins and Tim Witherspoon.
Formerly owned by Veronica Michael and Carol Ray, the venue closed in 2010 due to tax issues. It is now being redeveloped by the Orens Brothers Real Estate Inc. and Mosaic Development Partners. Orens Brothers will have a 49 percent share in the venue and Mosaic Development a 51 percent share.
Although they do not officially own the property as of yet, both companies are equitable owners of the Blue Horizon and will be officially closing the purchase of the property soon. Both companies have rights to spend money on the property as if they owned the property and are under an agreement preventing the Blue Horizon from being sold to any other interested parties.
The Blue Horizon development experienced hurdles in the redevelopment process due to trouble obtaining funding because of the housing market crash and being re-zoned.
In March 2012, City Council President Darrell Clarke, whose Fifth District encompasses that area of North Broad Street and Main Campus, introduced an amendment to ordinance Bill No. 120015, which changed the zoning regulation of the Blue Horizon lot to allow for restaurants, night clubs, live entertainment and hotel parking.
Scott Orens, partner in Orens Brothers Real Estate Inc., said the company estimated construction will create about 400 jobs. Construction is set to begin in spring 2014, Orens said, with a $6 million redevelopment assistance capital program grant from the commonwealth being administered by the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation and funds split between the two companies.
The Conwell Inn on Polett Walk is currently the only North Philadelphia hotel serving the Temple community, with 22 rooms.
“We think it’s a market that needs to be addressed,” Orens said. “It’s a market we think we can tap into.”
Because of the close proximity to Main Campus, the Blue Horizon will be working with the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management to create student internships.
“There’s more of a training and educational place for them so they will have something where they can come and get real-life experience with running and operating a hotel,” said Greg Reaves, the principal manager of Mosaic Development Partners.
The redevelopment is part of the Avenue of the Arts North expansion along Broad Street north of City Hall from the Avenue of the Arts South.
“We’re working to create a gathering place where students can come every day, where people in the community can come and just enjoy the venue,” Reaves said. “It’s something that we really believe will make a statement in North Philadelphia and on Broad Street, that folks will want to come and be there even if they’re not residing there overnight.”
Mark Hannigan, a senior mathematics major, said he is sad to see the Blue Horizon no longer open as a boxing venue.
“I like the idea of redeveloping Broad Street, the new restaurants opening up, it’s good to see redevelopment along this [street],” Hannigan said. “But I kind of like the idea of the Blue Horizon. It has sort of a homespun Philadelphia feel to it. I’m from Ireland and I know people in Ireland who have heard about it and were interested in it.”
North Philadelphia residents Gregory Bonaparte, a general mechanic for Temple’s housing department for 20 years and Fred Ali, also a mechanic at Temple, said they’re opposed to the redevelopment of the Blue Horizon.
“There’s so much development happening in North Philly, they’re not even considering us at all,” Ali said. “We get housekeeping jobs, clean-up jobs after they do their jobs. That’s not fair to us, so we don’t want that crap in our neighborhood unless they consider us building it.”
“It should be more geared toward the neighborhood to benefit … not only for a developer to profit, but for the neighborhood to be healthy,” Bonaparte said.
Orens Brothers and Mosaic Development Partners also recently completed Diamond Green Apartments, an off-campus site catered to Temple students on the corner of 10th and Diamond streets.
The venue will also feature onsite parking, three conference rooms, an outdoor open garden area and fitness center.
Sarai Flores can be reached at email@example.com.