Developer Bart Blatstein is looking to move ahead with his proposal for a major mixed-use project at Broad & Washington, on of the city’s most visible vacant lots. And he’s not waiting for City Council.
Last June, 2nd-District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson introduced a bill that would have allowed Blatstein to pursue his plans for a 1,600-unit apartment complex with retail space wrapping around the block. But, partially because of community concerns about the height of the towers and location of the loading areas, that bill lapsed without getting a hearing. Now Blatstein is going to try his luck at the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
According to an appeal posted by the Department of Licenses and Inspections, Blatstein is now pursuing a project with one 32-story tower, 944 apartments, 882 parking spaces, ground-floor retail spaces and, potentially, an 80-room hotel. The proposal is expected to go through Civic Design Review and Planning Commission review next month. As required by the zoning code, Blatstein has requested a meeting with Hawthorne Empowerment Coalition, the local Registered Community Organization, later this month. The zoning board hearing has not been scheduled yet.
The site is already zoned CMX-5, the most permissive commercial zoning classification in the city. It’s not clear exactly how many variances Blatstein will need—his plans may not be finalized yet—but the CMX-5 zoning requires a special exception to include parking spaces above ground.
Blatstein wouldn’t comment on why he decided to go to the zoning board now or what happened with Councilman Johnson’s bill.
“It’s an amazing project,” is all he would say. “It will be the most amazing thing I ever did.”
Blatstein in the past has built the Piazza in Northern Liberties and shopping centers on Columbus Boulevard in South Philly. A few years ago, he failed to win a license convert the old Inquirer building on North Broad Street into a hotel and casino. Lately, he has partnered with Cescaphe Event Group on plans to convert the former PECO power station next to Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown into a wedding venue and event space. He is currently building a mansion for himself on Rittenhouse Square.