Deconstructing Bart Blatstein

Understanding Bart Blatstein’s impact on Philadelphia is easy: He’s the most creative developer this city has seen in a generation. Understanding the man himself? That’s a whole different story.

Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein

Larry Freedman remembers it well, because it was one of those sweet, sweet Bart Blatstein nights. As zoning chair for the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association, Freedman has long experienced the vicissitudes­ of life in what many call “Bart World.” With 30 acres in holdings, Blatstein has attained the status in NoLibs of an old-time landowner.­ But this being Philadelphia, not medieval­ France, land ownership doesn’t equal dictatorship. For a decade, in fact, Philadelphia’s fight cards have regularly pitted Blatstein against the people of Northern Liberties in epic Shakespearean­ hair-pulls over matters like parking, noise, garages and trash pickups. But not that night.

In spring 2011, Blatstein was set to open the Arrow Swim Club, a private pool and lounge facility he founded with publicist Nicole Cashman. The associated squabbles had abated. The weather was right—an evening on which the spring air suggested summer. And Blatstein was at his magnanimous best. In fact, he threw a private party at the club for the very neighborhood association that had, at so many different turns, questioned and impeded him.

Piles of food abounded. And when one pile diminished, another appeared. Freedman even teased Blatstein by standing up and toasting the developer’s second in command, longtime assistant Tina Roberts: “I said, ‘Bart, you’d be nothing without her.’”

Blatstein laughed and agreed.

But even then, Freedman knew this sweet sense of union must yield to some spicy debate. And he proved correct.

Within a month, Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky was writing about the loose trash that had spilled out from Blatstein’s properties into the neighborhood. It also wasn’t long before Freedman and the people of Northern Liberties engaged Blatstein in another uncomfortable negotiation over garages.

“As soon as Bart perceives you to be blocking him,” says Freedman, “something changes. It’s not like you have a normal conversation at that point.”

Now, to some extent, this dynamic has presided ever since the first guy with a few extra rocks and a dream started landscaping too close to his neighbor’s cave. Yet this hoary old tableau seems somehow different when Blatstein is involved. “Bart has such a tremendous capacity for warmth,” says Freedman. “And I like him. There was a time when I never thought I would say that. But I genuinely like Bart Blatstein. He just also has this capacity to be … ”

He trails off there, momentarily at a loss for words. “You’ve probably heard there is a ‘good Bart’ and a ‘bad Bart,’” he says. “I think he is a genuinely decent person. He is not out to hurt anyone. But I’ve never met anyone who can just kind of shut down like Bart. And you don’t want to be on that side of him.”

The idea of “two Barts” comes up a lot around Blatstein. And if he had that reputation only as a person—of being mostly warm with some nasty cold spells, like San Francisco—that would be one thing. The issue is that fairly or unfairly, Blatstein’s reputation as a developer is still being defined. There’s the practical Bart Blatstein, who once built a lot of ugly boxes on Delaware Avenue, enlivening a moribund strip of the city economically while lending it all the charm of an Ohio suburb. Then there is the ambitious, sophisticated Blatstein who built the Piazza—the European-style gathering place that is now Northern Liberties’ public identity, and one of the finest additions to Philadelphia in decades.

Two Barts, and the tension between them is currently playing out on one of this city’s main stages. Because Blatstein, at 57, is talking about building a monstrous development on North Broad Street, just a dice-throw from City Hall—ranging over three city blocks, housing a hotel, an entertainment complex, retail shops, restaurants and a casino. Next door, he’s remaking an 18-story office building and constructing a new one, creating a pair of retail and residence towers. So he isn’t just reinventing a peripheral neighborhood any longer. This time, he’s essentially working in Center City, the heart of Philadelphia. And his latest plan has forced a question on us all: Just who is Bart Blatstein, exactly—and which one of him is about to show up on North Broad Street?

IN RECENT YEARS, it seemed there might be only one Bart Blatstein—a developer the entire city could rally around. The way the narrative went, Blatstein wasn’t just transforming Philadelphia. He had transformed himself.

When Blatstein first appeared in the public eye, in the mid-’80s, he secured a reputation as a canny businessman but an uninspired builder. He purchased properties no one else wanted: great swaths of land on the Delaware, a chunk of Manayunk. Blatstein built windowless theaters and retail shopping centers. One of his most prudent investments turned out to be land he never developed, a parcel of nothing on the Delaware that he acquired for $2 million and sold, around a decade later, for $65 million. By this time, in the mid-’90s, competitors in the development arena had to concede his business acumen. But in terms of crafting buildings that inspire—the way the towering, all-glass Liberty Place suggested Philadelphia could modernize and cleave the sky—Blatstein wasn’t even on the radar.

The rush of liquidity he got from these early business successes, however, bought him freedom to pursue his own path. “I could take more risks, because I had something to show banks and creditors,” he says. “Which is good, because I don’t want to be owned. I like to do what I want to do.”

He kept going. In 2005, he unveiled Liberties Walk, his first real salvo in the battle to make something special out of Northern Liberties. In 2006, he completed Avenue North, an impressive 1,200-bed housing facility for Temple students combined with a massive retail and theater complex. This initial stimulus created momentum for the slow growth of one of Philadelphia’s most impoverished neighborhoods. But the architecture spoke of personal transformation. Unlike his theaters in Manayunk and along the Delaware, this was no windowless box. “I went crazy with the glass,” says Blatstein, “because I wanted to make this an urban theater. The windows connect what’s going on inside with the life on the street.”

Blatstein was growing before our eyes. But Northern Liberties brought his reputation to a crucial tipping point.

In 2000, when Blatstein first acquired the old Schmidt’s brewing site, the entire area north of Poplar Street was urban void—abandoned industrial buildings haunted by squatters, junkies, prostitutes, drug dealers and sneak thieves. “If you walked through there,” remembers Freedman, “you had to be careful not to get pulled into the dark. Because there were, like, zombies.”

Blatstein spent roughly 10 years refashioning Northern Liberties, building a community based on the precepts of the New Urbanism—a push for walkable, dynamic cities, towns and neighborhoods. There are numerous ways to gauge his success: Property values shot up, fivefold. Blatstein even brought the community a shiny new supermarket. But what best signifies his accomplishment is the Piazza, an ambitious creation inspired by a trip he took to Rome.

In rough statistical terms, the Piazza at Schmidts is an 80,000-square-foot public gathering space, balanced by dozens of independent retail shops, residences, restaurants and offices. But getting caught up in tallying the Piazza’s parts would be a mistake. Because the Piazza is all about the spaces between the buildings. Every pillar, wall and edifice has been constructed to let life come flooding in. On a warehouse sealing off the south end, a giant 40-foot-tall LED flat-screen television broadcasts the Phillies and other local sports teams, suffusing the Piazza with cheers. During the day, runners trace serpentine patterns between the tables and lounge chairs. At night, a regular series of movies brings people from age eight to 80 out to sit together under the stars. Weekends often feature live music or a DJ on the main stage, luring passersby to stop and dance. Young marrieds bring their toddlers. Oldsters sip wine and stroll the funky shops. Young singles come here to get laid.

In sum, Philadelphia happens here, in all its permutations. And the space is so welcoming—­the architectural alchemy so right—that the Piazza has forced people to use different words in connection with the once-mediocre Bart Blatstein: words like “magic” and “visionary.”

“It was incredibly brave,” says Brian O’Neill, a leading developer and Blatstein’s friend. “When he showed me his ideas, I thought, ‘Uh. I just don’t see it.’ But he saw it.”
Not even a trio of murders—including a drug-related homicide when the apartments first opened and a recent slaying when a late-night argument erupted into gunfire—have detracted from the Piazza’s success. Such is the evident cost, it seems, of erecting a new neighborhood on the Philly frontier.

So when Blatstein announced the acquisition of two properties on North Broad Street—the old state office building at Spring Garden and the Inquirer headquarters on Callowhill—optimism ran so high that Philadelphians started fitting a new King of Development for his crown. Inquirer business reporter Joe Distefano best captured the Blat-mentum, wondering in his column if Bart Blatstein was “the new Willard Rouse for this generation.”

At first glance, to students of city history, the question might seem too bold: Rouse, the man who erected that skyline-defining tower of Liberty Place, and … Bart Blatstein? But I asked it of numerous sources, and nearly all—including the Inquirer’s deeply influential architecture critic, Inga Saffron—said yes. “He’s in that kind of conversation,” she says. “Bart, more than our mayors or the city planning commission, is determining just what kind of city people will be in when they walk through Philadelphia 50 years from now.”

This is big talk, the kind of chatter that comprises the first rough draft of history. But when Blatstein announced his actual plans for North Broad Street, his own history seemed to repeat itself: A casino?

The very idea seemed like “Bad Bart” all over again, a reversal of the developer’s transformation, the box-maker returned.

When Saffron heard the news, she turned to Twitter and voiced what seemed like a city’s collective groan: “Blatstein,” she wrote, “has lost his mind.”

IT’S A WARM AFTERNOON in early May, and Bart Blatstein is dressed in his summer uniform—dress pants, a short-sleeve polo, and a pair of sunglasses that hide his eyes. Blatstein is about six feet tall, slim, with a speaking voice of great range: He can hit everything from a low, droll baritone to a high nasal exclamation. And his face is equally animated, betraying his every emotion—from glee to anger to the cold You’re dead to me stare of the Godfather. Today, as he walks and talks, skirting the corner of Broad and Callowhill, on the site of his proposed new project, it’s with the comfortable, self-assured air of a man at home. That fits, because he owns the place—all 18 legendary floors of the Inquirer building, and the signature clock face at the top. He has invited me here to explain why his casino will be special.

“I want you to see what I saw,” says Blatstein, “and hear what I thought as I saw it.”

He is aware of Saffron’s tweet. But he tells me he has yet to speak with her about it. “This is not about Inga,” he says. “I like her. But it’s not about her or anyone else. If I think something will work, I’m going to find a way to do it, no matter what anyone thinks.”

In many respects, this is the truest Blatstein. The developer. The guy with a vision and the will to pursue it. But Inga Saffron remembers things differently. “Bart called me within an hour after I sent that tweet,” she says. “And he just said to me, ‘Inga, wait till you see it. Wait till I show you the plans.’”

This contradiction between his version of events and Saffron’s also reveals a facet of the real guy: He tightly manages the flow of information surrounding him. As story subjects go, Blatstein can be maddening. The list of topics he put “off the record” or implored me not to write about is too long to list. Highlights include his father’s early-’70s bribery conviction, his family, and many of his political views. Some of this is understandable. Blatstein’s friends all report he is a deeply committed family man and intensely private. But much of the material he deems too hot to touch is innocuous.

Consider: At 57, Blatstein is terrifically fit—with a youthful face, no discernible paunch, and shoulders that taper down to a slim waist.

“What do you do to stay in shape?” I ask.

“I exercise,” he says.

“What kind of exercise, specifically?”

Exercise-exercise,” he says.
“Do you run?”

“I exercise,” he repeats. Then, as if to throw me a bone. “I don’t run.”

Well, thanks. But the funny thing is, despite the boundary-setting, Blatstein insists upon his own transparency. “I’m not complicated,” he tells me, repeatedly. “I’m just a kid from Northeast Philly who got lucky. You keep trying to discover something more about me. But there’s nothing to find.”

The only time Blatstein is really free, or at least free-ish, is when he’s discussing his projects. A few times, as he parades up and down Callowhill, marking off distances, showing me where he was when revelation struck, passersby stop in their tracks and gawk for a moment at the man who seems to be conducting the streetscape.

A casual point of his right index finger sketches the hotel, 18 stories tall, that will rise up in the old Inquirer building. Two hands, fingers splayed outward like a magician’s in mid-“Presto,” transform the building’s back end into a spa and fitness center, entertainment space, and an enclosed parking garage. A wave of his left hand, toward the 1500 block of Callowhill, replaces the garage there with retail on the first floor and a casino on the second. But it’s with the next phase of his development that Blatstein starts conjuring up some unexpected music—his own personal Fantasia.

“I was standing here,” he says, anchoring himself on the southwest corner of 15th and Callowhill, “when I realized … ”

He lifts his right hand, points an index finger at the back of the Inquirer building, and draws an imaginary line in the sky: The three contiguous blocks of the city that he had just acquired could easily be joined. He quickly imagined sky bridges connecting one structure to the next. “I thought, ‘That’s cool, but what can I do with it?’”

The origin of an idea is difficult to track. As Blatstein puts it, “You take 35 years in this business, a whole lifetime of influences, and something comes together.” In this case, what Blatstein imagined was both ambitious and outlandish: “A rooftop village.”

The concept takes a little explaining. But in short, about 60 feet off the ground, on rooftops extending more than a block and a half—from above the Inquirer’s old printing plant all the way to 16th Street—Blatstein plans to erect a “village reminiscent of old Europe.”

Crooked and meandering streets will weave through a collection of two- and three-story buildings housing small shops, cafes and restaurants. The two sections of the village will be connected by a “sky bridge” traversing North 15th Street. And it will include a retractable glass roof, so the weather will always be hospitable for an “outdoor” espresso, even when it’s not.

The idea will likely strike many as a tad too fantastical, a Disney Euro village in the sky. But just as the Piazza once inspired him, Blatstein is clearly energized by the vision.

“You know how in nature shows, in rain forests, scientists can go up into the canopy of the forest and find a whole different ecosystem?” he asks. “That’s the concept, only what you’ll find here will be like Europe. With the buildings around, you won’t feel like you’re on a roof.”

Blatstein says the casino on the ground floor will only “happen” to be there. Visitors will be able to enter the rooftop village without setting foot in the gambling hall. And the village will be laid out, carefully, to cultivate a “sense of mystery.” Because the streets will run at angles, visitors will have no opportunity to see from one “block” to the next.

Finally, in showman mode, Blatstein takes off his sunglasses—the reveal of his plan leading to a reveal of the man himself. “It’s going to be absolutely fan-tastic,” he says. “This isn’t a casino. This is so much more. This is a one-of-a-kind development. That’s my promise to Philadelphia—that there is nothing else like this in the entire world.”

AFTER BLATSTEIN SHOWS me his plans for North Broad Street, something shifts. “You’re over the barrier,” he tells me.

He stops there, as if I should understand exactly what he means. But the moment is so unexpected that I have no idea what he’s talking about.

“The barrier?” I ask.

“The barrier,” he repeats. “The barrier I had erected—between us. You’ve crossed it. I trust you now.”

At this juncture, it’s worth noting that Blatstein is like a cross between Woody Allen and Nixon—neurotic, vulnerable, secretive and controlling. The mind reels at the prospect that Blatstein might prove, like Nixon, tricky. Is the barrier singular, while beyond it lies the circle of trust? Or does the circle merely conceal a pit inlaid with many spears?

If you want to go looking for Bart Blatstein’s Rosebud, the influence that shaped his direction in life and will form his last breathy utterance, try “Harry.” Or “Oxford Circle.” Or “Boulevard Pools.” Indeed, mention “Boulevard Pools” and the reflex hits: Blatstein smiles. “I grew up around fun,” he says.

A vast entertainment complex where people could eat, sun, swim, ice-skate, play mini golf and hold special occasions in banquet halls, Boulevard Pools sounds like a rudimentary version of the community-oriented­ developments for which Blatstein is most admired. The complex also typified life in the area, around Oxford Circle, where Blatstein grew up. “It was magical,” says Blatstein. “It was safe, and everyone knew each other. You could walk, everywhere, even as a kid.”

Re-creating that has animated his work in Northern Liberties, he says. “The concept is the ‘five-minute community’—everything that sustains a family, within a short walk from the house.”

This upbringing united Blatstein with his architects on the Piazza project, Scott Erdy and David McHenry. Their initial meeting had been set up by one of Blatstein’s then-traditional adversaries in Northern Liberties, architect Tim McDonald. So Blatstein played hard to get. He told them he could make time for them if they came to his house. At the Shore. That weekend.

When they arrived, Blatstein introduced them to his massive barrier. “I had the sense we weren’t getting anywhere,” remembers McHenry. “I mean, he wouldn’t even invite us into the house.”

Instead, the pair started unfolding some of their ideas on Blatstein’s deck. An air show was taking place on the beach nearby. Blatstein stared into the sky the whole time they talked. And after an hour or so, he seemed ready for them to go. Then his wife, Jil, a sleek brunette with whom Blatstein has raised two children, came out with lunch.

Blatstein looked ill at the prospect of keeping company with the McDonald-recommended­ architects any longer. But at some point, McHenry stumbled over the magic words—“Boulevard Pools.”

Suddenly, the whole conversation pivoted. McHenry, too, had grown up in Northeast Philadelphia. “I can be stubborn,” says Blatstein, “but we kind of bonded over that.”

The truth is, for all his bluster, Blatstein is a softie. “I think what people don’t understand about Bart is that feeling himself to be a part of a community is really important to him,” says Matt Ruben, a longtime force in the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association. “He considers himself to be part of Northern Liberties—one of us. And it really means something to him, emotionally.” From Blatstein’s point of view, he may live on the Main Line, but his offices, his work and much of his soul are in Northern Liberties.

The man who built the childhood that has been so influential in Blatstein’s career is his father, Harry, who passed away in 2007 at the age of 85. “He was a very important man in Democratic political circles through the ’60s and ’70s,” remembers longtime Democratic operative Marty Weinberg. “And he was the sort of guy, even though his status was really high, who’d volunteer for any job. If you said, ‘Harry, we need to put out some lawn signs,’ he’d stand up and say, ‘Give them to me.’”

Harry Blatstein was a confidant to Philadelphia mayors James Tate and Frank Rizzo. He could rustle up campaign donations. He could pull in votes. One of the great, fate-begging­ tales of Bart Blatstein’s upbringing is that he was once scooped up from the carpet of a crowded fund-raiser at Boulevard Pools by Bobby Kennedy. “That was how we grew up,” says Blatstein’s brother Marc. “Kind of at the center of things.”

Harry Blatstein’s hustle and hard work earned him opportunities. During the building of Veterans Stadium, he was appointed stadium coordinator. He also came to own Boulevard Pools. And he put his sons, Marc, Bart and Rick, to work as soon as their legs could carry them.

If a man is to be judged by how his kids turn out, Harry Blatstein did well: His oldest, Marc, is a diabetes activist, having survived 50 years with a diagnosis of juvenile diabetes—a significant feat. Rick has suffered some ups and downs in business—first going big, then going bankrupt as a club owner—before finding a profitable niche managing airport restaurants at PHL, LaGuardia and others. And of course, Bart is a millionaire, competing for a slot next to Willard Rouse.

But along the way, Harry Blatstein suffered defeats. In the mid-’70s, he closed the legendary Boulevard Pools—unable to make a go of it financially any longer. And this was on the heels of receiving a year’s probation for soliciting a bribe in connection with the construction of Vets Stadium. “It was a very difficult time,” remembers Marc, “and it was particularly hard for Bart. He doesn’t like to talk about it—at all.”

Blatstein, in fact, flatly refuses to discuss any of his father’s public failures. But when a guy puts up as many barriers as Blatstein, he leaves his autobiography in the rougher hands of biographers—and his father’s up-and-down career does seem to speak to Blatstein’s guardedness, his thirst for control of every situation. What better way to avoid that kind of public pain than to engineer every detail?

It’s a trait that has served him well as a developer. But it’s likely a very difficult way to live—something Harry understood.

“Our father,” remembers Marc, “had a saying: ‘The only perfect man is a dead man. Because he’s made his last mistake.’”

THE UNOFFICIAL TOUR is a thing of Philadelphia legend. Maybe he runs into you at a board meeting. Or he sees you out for lunch. Or he just calls. “You got a minute?” he asks.

Say yes, and the next thing you know, Bart Blatstein is taking you on a drive into “Bart World”—a trip through the city with him acting as narrator and questioner.

As he drives, Blatstein instructs, explaining how the sidewalks on the Piazza are wider, inviting people to stop and talk, to create life on the street, and how the lights over Liberties Walk act to cocoon people in a dynamic open space.

Some riders also get a glimpse of Blatstein’s office. “It was filled with charts and maps and drawings and photographs,” says PennPraxis founder Harris Steinberg, “showing all of his properties in Northern Liberties and the connections between them.”

In 2006, Steinberg was working on a plan for the Delaware riverfront, trying to persuade landowners, developers and politicians to create a street grid of shops, restaurants and trails along the water. He was drowning in bureaucracy. Entering Blatstein’s office, by comparison, felt like stumbling into a wizard’s shop. There Blatstein was, doing it all himself, conjuring an entire neighborhood out of his own money and the drawings on the wall.

This is Blatstein’s creative side, the part of him that mentors young developers. “My son is one of them,” says Steinberg. “I have no doubt Bart can do it faster on his own. But he has been very generous to people this way.”

End up on the wrong side of him, however, and he can close up quickly. Back in the early ’90s, Bill Harvey served as an attorney for a buyer interested in waterfront land. Blatstein, with whom Harvey had done some business, happened to have some. Harvey arranged a meeting, but it came to nothing, and the buyer ultimately went elsewhere.

“Bart was so deeply disappointed,” remembers Harvey, “that he just stopped talking to me.”

Later, Bally’s showed up, paid Blatstein $65 million for the same land, and set his career on a steeper trajectory. But the silence wore on. “I don’t think I heard from him for about five years,” Harvey said. “And we were friends. Then one day, after five years, he called me and said, ‘I can’t afford to be mad at you anymore. I need you.’”

This second working relationship now appears to be permanent. “I treasure my friendship with Bart,” Harvey says. “But I do have to say that he likes to typify himself as ‘just a kid from the Northeast who got lucky.’ He’s more complicated than that.”

THERE IS CONSIDERABLE DOUBT as to whether Blatstein’s Rooftop Village dream will get off the ground. In Harrisburg, efforts to take away Philadelphia’s second casino license rage on. And if another casino does happen, potential owner-operators will compete in some serious politicking.

Till then, speculation will abound—about the fate of casinos in Philadelphia and Blatstein. “In addition to whatever concerns I have over whether or not a casino near City Hall is good for the city, I worry that this is a step back for Bart,” says Inga Saffron. “He’s worked very hard in North Philadelphia and Northern Liberties and done a great job of establishing himself as a brand. As someone who understands how to build a youthful and vibrant community. A casino is none of that.”

Blatstein’s response is coldly pragmatic. “Look,” he says, “the casino finances the rest. I need a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week venue to leverage the entire project. Without it, this can’t happen.”

He also insists he can construct a casino in keeping with his more recently developed New Urbanist principles.

But for now, with so much still uncertain about the project, Blatstein’s latest plan works best as a metaphor for the man and the builder: A rooftop village with a retractable glass roof, which creates and enforces a sense of mystery? A $600 million development that combines a ruthlessly practical casino with the blissfully zany dream of a rooftop village? In these terms, Blatstein’s new plan for North Broad Street seems to stamp Bart himself on Philadelphia—the good Bart and the bad, the practical and the visionary, all in one place.

Several days after Bart Blatstein informed me that I was over his barrier, he invited me to watch a Sixers game with him and his 27-year-old son, Ryan. For an hour or two, we relaxed in front of a big flat-screen television, as Blatstein gently chided his son, the bigger fan, every time something went slightly wrong for the home team. “Ry, Ry,” he’d say whenever the opposing team scored a basket. “How’d that happen?”

Ryan, who’s a hulking six-foot-seven, works for his father as an assistant project manager. (Blatstein’s daughter, Jenna, 26, designs lingerie for her own company in New York.) At halftime he ran out for drinks, yogurt and granola. Blatstein handed over his own iPad, so I could see what passages he’d highlighted in Ed Glaeser’s Triumph of the City—a manifesto of New Urbanism. And when the Sixers won, Blatstein announced he was headed to the gym.

The mystery of what he does for exercise, sort of solved.

The comparative normalcy of this tableau put me in mind of something deputy mayor for planning and economic development Allan Greenberger told me: “In the years when a developer is working, personalities seem very important. But in time, all that is forgotten. And what we have left are the buildings.”

After spending weeks chasing Blatstein, trying to get him to open up, I realized the most telling moment occurred on day one.

After Blatstein had given a press conference in the lobby of the state office building, he took me upstairs, to the roof. From 18 stories up, with no surrounding wall, Philadelphia rolled out before us. And Blatstein leaned gently against my shoulder, orienting me and pointing me through the major stops in his career. Far to the south, somewhere in the haze of development along Columbus Boulevard, Blatstein’s first, aesthetically faceless retail and theater boxes squatted.

We turned 180 degrees: To the north, up Broad Street, lay the shiny new apartment buildings and the gleaming silver retail, restaurant and theater hub he built at Temple. Finally, almost directly east, Northern Liberties sprawled, with the vari-tinted windows of the Piazza signaling the position of what is, to date, his grandest creation.

Blatstein had been up here several times before, trying to figure out what he might do with the roof itself—perhaps an incredible apartment?—and felt comfortable enough with the height to stride out to the edge. For a moment, when he turned back to me, his long, lanky frame was silhouetted and fanning out over the city—his Temple creations seemingly hanging just over his left shoulder, the Piazza resplendent to his right. It was the defining shot of Blatstein: a man we could endeavor in frustration to understand, when all we really need to know, for history’s sake, is written on the landscape.

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  • Matt

    I really enjoyed reading this article. I thought it gave a good independent representative of a man, who like him or not, is a major player in Philadelphia. Like most things in life, nothing is black and white. There are good and bad things to Mr. Blatstein and I thought this piece did a good job of showing that. As a Northern Liberties resident I thought it mirrored many of my own feelings of him. History will be the true judge of his work. Change for many people is hard to swallow.

  • fishlips19106

    Schlockmeister would be an appropriate moniker.

  • truthteller

    I guess I’d be rich and successful as well if I never paid my subs. I have a friend who lost $20k working for this guy.

  • truthteller

    And not due to quality of work. He has an impeccable reputation, finished ahead of schedule and did an exceptional job.