Has Bart Blatstein - the man behind Northern Liberties' Piazza and Tower Investments, the developer who was allegedly planning to transform the vacant lot at Broad and Washington into more than 1000 apartments - given up on Philadelphia?
Not long ago he had conceived of the vacant Inquirer Building as a hotel and casino and an abandoned PECO power plant along the Delaware as a destination resort.
But in a recent Huffington Post article, Blatstein seems to imply that his days in Philadelphia - or development in general - may be coming to a close. It's no secret he's been spending time focused on his planned investment in Atlantic City. The town is in trouble and could use an injection of creativity, perhaps the kind of dynamic intervention that transformed Northern Liberties. It's also no secret that Bart Blatstein has a house nearby in Margate, NJ.
Could he be cashing out and going home?
He told the Huffington Post that he views Atlantic City as his "last hurrah," one the Post referred to as "his last chance to make a mark in an urban area." Those remarks may mean little to the Post's New York and New Jersey readers, but it says a lot about Philadelphia and Blatstein's plans for his portfolio of prime lots and vacant icons here.
If he's done, it's odd that he ditched the momentum. Tower Place helped bring North Broad Street back to life, an avenue that's about to boom with the renovation of the Divine Lorraine. Renovating his Inquirer Building would have been a logical next-step in Blatstein's reign over Broad Street, one that could have been bookended at Broad and Washington, bankrolled by his success on North Broad.
If he really is finished with Philadelphia, let's hope his properties change hands quickly and smoothly, and fall in the lap of someone ambitious. The lot at Broad and Washington and the Inquirer Building aren't your average urban meadow and North Philly shell, they're significant sites that need serious maintenance, even when vacant.