Developer takes second pass at vacant riverfront land in South Philly

Listen
 Developer Bart Blatstein plans to purchase a vacant parcel of land on Columbus Boulevard between Reed and Tasker streets. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Developer Bart Blatstein plans to purchase a vacant parcel of land on Columbus Boulevard between Reed and Tasker streets. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A plot of vacant land in South Philly has a new owner, who’s also the old owner.

Developer Bart Blatstein recently purchased the site where the Foxwoods Casino was supposed to be built.

There are lots of pieces of vacant land in Philadelphia, but this one sits in a prime location: on Columbus Boulevard, along the Delaware River, just north of a plaza with a Wal-Mart and Home Depot.

Bart Blatstein said the deal to buy the land happened so quickly that he doesn’t have specific plans for the site yet.

“What’s best suited for that site is a mixed-use development: a mix of residential and some commercial,” he said.

Blatstein said a mixed-use development will help to continue the neighborhood to the river and create “its own neighborhood within a neighborhood.”

The developer said while he’s not sure exactly what he wants to do on the vacant land, he knows what he doesn’t want to do: turn it into a big box shopping center. That was his plan for the land back when he owned it in the 1990’s.

Blatstein said the neighborhood has “grown-up” since he sold the parcel for more than $60 million.  He just bought it back for just $13 million.

“What motivated me was that the price was incredible. Just an incredible price for just a large parcel — in fact it’s the largest parcel on the Central Waterfront,” he said.

Dr. James Moylan, President of the Pennsport Civic Association, is excited.

“We’re quite excited that there’s a noteable developer that has now purchased it and I’m hoping that this means it will finally gets developed and becomes a significant portion — or active parcel — of our community,” he said.

Moylan said he likes the mixed use idea.

“Houses, townhomes, apartments, businesses, restaurants, supermarkets that sort of thing. So it’s not a big box. It’s an actual walkable useable space that somehow helps us tie into the community. We are the gateway to that area of the waterfront so we need a better tie in than 16 acres of empty, un-useable land.”

Philadelphians who don’t live in the neighborhood will see a benefit from the sale as well: developer Bart Blatstein said he’s giving a strip of land along the river to the Natural Lands Trust for a waterfront trail.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.