Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein is accused of trespassing and failing to make promised payments to purchase a failed shopping center in Atlantic City.
Blatstein has cancelled a press conference he had scheduled for Tuesday in which he was expected to unveil the details of his “dramatic redevelopment plans” for the Pier Shops at Caesars.
In a lawsuit, Kevin Ortzman, the president of Caesars, alleges that Blatstein’s purchase of the mall violated the property’s old lease terms. In particular, Ortzman said he never signed off on the redevelopment deal, which the suit says was a contract violation.
Blatstein reportedly purchased the four-story shopping complex for $2.7 million, a steep discount considering it cost $200 million to build in the mid-2000s.
In 2011, however, the owners of the half-empty Atlantic City property could no longer make loan payments and filed for bankruptcy. Shortly after, the property’s lender sold the mall off in a foreclosure auction.
In October, Blatstein announced he was teaming up with architect Paul Steelman to revamp the shoreside property. He said since he grew up going to the Jersey Shore, the area holds a special place in his heart.
“Those who think A.C. is done for, they are out of their minds. This is a great opportunity to come back into Atlantic City,” he said at the time.
Apparently, though, Caesars president Ortzman felt like he was being cut out of the process. Despite letting go of the property in a foreclosure sale, Ortzman said some of the original lease terms still apply.
Ortzman’s lawsuit claims that Blatstein met with him on Feb. 10 and said, “you can’t win, and I can’t lose.” He supposedly added, “I’ll drag this out in court and suck all of the money dry from the pier, and you’ll be left with nothing.”
The suit claims Blatstein further told Ortzman, “I’ll blast you in the press as uncooperative to a ‘hero’ trying to save Atlantic City — Caesars will lose in the court of public opinion.”
Blatstein is perhaps best known for transforming Northern Liberties with his 80,000-square-foot Piazza project, and for his proposal to turn the former Philadelphia Inquirer building into a casino, a proposition state gambling officials denied.
The suit, filed in Atlantic County Superior Court, argues that Blatstein never made payments to Caesars for “use, occupancy and control” of the property.
Therefore, the suit contends, Blatstein and his colleagues “occupy the property illegally as trespassers.”
Neither Ortzman’s attorney nor Blatstein responded to requests for comment.