Thursday, August 4, 2011

Blue Horizon boxing venue is set to become a hotel

"Plans to renovate the building into a hotel-restaurant kicked into high gear last week after the Corbett administration approved a $6 million state grant to redevelop the 146-year old site.

Mosaic Development Partners of West Philadelphia and Orens Brothers Real Estate have teamed up as developers.

Scott Orens, a partner in the firm, said he hoped the club would become a combination hotel and restaurant catering to Temple University, and the new Convention Center expansion, at 111 N. Broad Street.

"We are in the middle of delicate negotiations with a lot of different parties," he said Wednesday. "We think the proximity to Temple with very few hotel rooms available to visiting professors, families, and Temple students, and the overflow of conventioneers, makes it an attractive location.

"Anyone who wants to stay now at Temple has to stay in Center City somewhere," he said.

Orens said he did not know how many rooms and how much table setting the development would have. But construction could begin in six months, he said.

"This is something we've been working on for about three or four years," said Vernoca Michael, Blue Horizon president and CEO. "One of the things we wanted to do for 17 years was to preserve the facility, and not tear it down. These people [Mosaic and Orens] have put in place something that was very acceptable and workable."

The Blue Horizon occupies what had been three mansions built in 1865. The mansions were combined by the Loyal Order of the Moose into one large lodge in 1912.

In 1961, it was converted into the Blue Horizon boxing arena.

The multipurpose venue has a ballroom and auditorium. The property's three floors have hosted everything from weddings and concerts to comedy shows and trade shows, but boxing paid the bills. It hosted championship bouts for the USBA/IBF super-middleweight and IBC and NABC state titles and the Hispanic championships. Bernard Hopkins and Arturo Gatti were among the 50 fighters who fought there and went on to win world titles.

"You think of Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field in baseball, the Blue Horizon is on par with those two legendary facilities in the boxing world," said Marc Abrams, boxing public relations director for the Blue Horizon from 2006 to last year. "I traveled all over the world covering fights and was around fighters, and when they heard I'm from Philadelphia, the first thing they asked me is if I've been to the Blue Horizon."

In 2005, Ring magazine called the Blue Horizon "the best place to watch a boxing match."

In June 2010, the Blue Horizon closed because of tax problems, CEO Michael said.

"This will be a historic building that will be preserved and redeployed to some new use," Orens said. "It would not have happened without [the grant]."

Ed Grose, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, said the new hotel "will be a great addition to further develop North Broad Street."

The Blue Horizon will join a growing list of North Broad Street projects, from Lenfest Plaza next to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts to the State Office Building at Broad and Spring Garden Streets and several new restaurants north of Spring Garden."

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