PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s often said reflecting on the past can help us prepare for the future. Perhaps, a 39,000-square-foot structure sitting on a full city block off of North Broad and Poplar Streets can give Philadelphians plenty of angles to reflect.
“People pass this building every day. Even people in the know don’t know about this building,” said Eric Blumenfeld, who is developing the building.
“This was a building built in 1908 by Oscar Hammerstein whose grandson went on to write the ‘Sound of Music,’” he continued.
Now just a big white box, the Philadelphia Metropolitan Opera House was a city landmark in the gilded age of the 1920s and 1930s. The space hosted gospel singers and opera stars alike.
“This was the best acoustical venue in the world at the time,” said Blumenfeld.
Blumenfeld’s company is renovating the space and turning it into a 4,000-seat Live Nation venue, and his goal is to make the redevelopment more of a preservation. The total amount which will be spent is more than $35 million.
“What I’ve learned is when a building has been standing this long, you kind of don’t want to work against it,” explained Blumenfeld. “You want to work with it.”
Blumenfeld also renovated the Divine Lorraine Hotel just a few blocks south, and hopes the renovation of the opera house will change the face of the city north of City Hall. The opera house, known as the Met, has changed hands over the years, housing a church, a boxing ring and even a circus.
“Buildings like the Met and Divine Lorraine: if we can’t save these buildings, then who are we as a city?” asked Blumenfeld.
The renovated building is expected to open in September 2018.