One of Us: Bart Blatstein, Developer

Illustration by Andy Friedman

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Bart Blatstein. But that’s not my legal name. Bart is short for Barton, but I haven’t used Barton since first grade, for obvious reasons.

I am a … real estate developer with few hobbies. My golf game is so bad that my hobby is real estate development. I’m the worst golfer at my golf club. They all laugh at me.

I bought my first property … on May 15, 1978 — a very small three-story rowhouse shell in Queen Village. It was the result of me not getting into medical school. I had to pursue something.

I live in … Montgomery County, but we’re moving back to Philly next year. We’re empty nesters, and it’s time to transition. Read more »

What’s on the Menu at the Playground

playground-sign-via-playground-940Bart Blatstein’s The Playground opens tomorrow in Atlantic City. And on “T Street,” the indoor street lined with seven live music venues, the food is being provided by Garces Events.

In the time since the project announced, the restaurant group has created a menu of bar snacks, and hand-held foods that are designed for taking from venue to venue, as the Playground allows guests to pass through its venues. The food menu is the same for all of the venues, while the beer lists and custom cocktails are specific to each concept.

For food there are snacks, Mexican pizzas, loaded fries (including the Abe Froman’s topped with bratwurst, cheese curds, and sauerkraut – Garces is just not giving up on Abe Froman), Nashville hot chicken, burgers and a section called “Riviera,” which inexplicably includes German style sausages.

Check out more on the food and drink »

Headlines: Walnut Street’s Art Deco “Icon” Has Been Sold

A photo posted by Pennsporter (@pennsporter) on

One of Philly’s standout examples of Art Deco architecture, the majestic Icon 1616 at 1616 Walnut Street, has been sold for some big time money. According to Natalie Kostelni of the Philadelphia Business Journal, “the $112 million price tag is considered huge at more than $540,000 a unit. The building has 23,000 square feet of fully leased retail space and 160 parking spaces.”

The building was owned by a trio of companies, including Alterra Property Group, Cross Properties and Federal Capital Partners. The buyer, Kostelni says, “is an investor from New York.”

Icon kind of changed the rental game when it reopened in 2014. Not only did it offer luxurious residential and building amenities, but it also partnered with Delos to offer Philly’s first WELL Signature suites program with Vitamin-C infused showerheads, black out curtains, aromatherapy and the Stay Well mobile phone app. (Hey, if it’s good enough for Leo DiCaprio, it’s good enough for us.)

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The First Phase of The Playground Is Opening This Weekend

Concept for The Playground's T Street.

Concept for The Playground’s T Street.

With record speed, the first phase of The Playground, known as “T Street,” is officially opening its doors to the public this Friday in Atlantic City.

The Playground is Bart Blatstein‘s reinvigoration program for the Pier Shops at Ceasars, which will hold 14 music venues, two private clubs, a bowling alley and a massive sports bar when all’s said and done. Since we’ve already talked venues, attractions, and construction, how about we talk eats?

Read more »

Headlines: Important Zoning Overlay Bill For South Philly to Meet Council Today

The vacant lot on northeast corner of Broad and Washington. | Photo via Google Street View.

The vacant lot on northeast corner of Broad and Washington. | Photo via Google Street View.

A bill that would create a zoning overlay called the South Broad Street Gateway will be introduced to City Council later today, PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey reports. The bill’s purpose? To pave the way for the project developer Bart Blatstein has in store for the northeast corner of Broad and Washington.

Yes, you read that correctly. There’s finally an update of note regarding the proposed mixed-use complex we last heard had called for two residential towers and a retail component. Blatstein has since refined his plans to include 1,600 units in the both towers and 180,000 square feet of retail space. According to Brey, both structures would rise to 30 stories, while the site as whole would be surrounded by “three-story retail storefronts and restaurants, with a mess of parking in the middle of the property.”

Councilman Johnson’s aide, Steve Cobb, was quoted as say the project could potentially start moving along in the fall.

Meanwhile, some folks aren’t happy with the new protected bike lines in Northeast Philly…

Read more »

Headlines: Developers to the State, You Know What’s Cool? A Billion Dollars

We just love highlighting all the big-time developments in this city. Hell, we devoted almost an entire issue to the “New Boom” back in March. But how do projects like the W Hotel, East Market The Gallery, the SLS International Hotel & Residences and even the Divine Lorraine get funded? A decent amount of it oftentimes comes from matching funds from the state in the form of Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP). In fact, Joe DiStefano of The Inquirer reports that “developers, corporations, colleges, hospitals and towns” have requested over $1 billion in funds from the state. Last year, Gov. Tom Corbett saw $1.1 billion in requests, but only “funded $207 million of projects.”

Philly alone at 66 requests, some goodies from this year include:

Highlights from the ‘burbs include:

DiStefano reports that Gov. Tom Wolf is actually seeking more requests for RACP funding. Check out the full list at the link below.

Developers ask Penna. for $1 billion+ [The Inquirer]

More Headlines For Your Enjoyment!

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Morning Headlines: Can Big Plans Really Save Atlantic City?

Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City on June 5, 2013. The Revel opened on April 1, 2012 at a cost of 2.4 Billion dollars. Photo | Shutterstock.com

Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City on June 5, 2013. The Revel opened on April 1, 2012 at a cost of 2.4 Billion dollars. Photo | Shutterstock.com

Man, it seems like every week we’re hearing about the latest game-changing plan for Atlantic City. First, it was Bart Blatstein, who recently settled his dispute with Caesar’s and announced plans for a mega-entertainment complex called The Playground. Dan McQuade reports that Glenn Straub finally (mercifully?) closed the deal to buy the beleaguered Revel Casino property for $82 million. Talk about buy low. Blatstein bought the $200 million Pier Shops for just over $2 million and now Straub nabs what was originally a $2.4 billion project for what amount to chump change in his line of business.

That’s apparently only the beginning for Straub, who plans to invest another $500 million into the home of Boardwalk Empire through a vision he’s calling The Phoenix Project. That plan includes (among other things) building Revel’s second tower and possibly an “extreme sports complex,” an air field for flying in high rollers and marinas for yachts. Jeez, and here we thought getting a huge ferris wheel at Steel Pier was a big deal for the city.

Buy low, aim high doesn’t only apply to those with access to millions of dollars. Take a casual stroll on Zillow and you, the homeowner looking for a beach house, can find yourself a great deal on beachfront property. Looking for a long play to get down the shore? Atlantic City may just be your best bet.

Fun (and Food) With Urban Gardening:

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Can Bart Blatstein Really Kickstart Atlantic City?

Starbucks bathroom, Atlantic City

The most wonderful bathroom view in the world, at a Starbucks in Atlantic City. (Photo | Dan McQuade)

After Bart Blatstein unveiled his plans for the Pier at Caesars in Atlantic City yesterday, I went to the Starbucks to file a story. The Inquirer’s Amy Rosenberg calls it the “nicest Starbucks on the planet,” and it might be. It’s a Starbucks that’s literally on the beach. There are incredible views of the ocean, beach and Atlantic City boardwalk.

Then I went into the bathroom. It was more of the same! The tiny, one-toilet bathroom at the pier has an even better view of the ocean than the actual Starbucks. And yet, here it is, an amazing view completely hidden in the mall.

The weirdest thing about the Pier Shops at Caesars — the pier that will soon become Blatstein’s new Playground development — is that it’s so inward-facing. Sure, it’s a mall — but it’s a mall that overlooks the ocean and aside from the back of the pier and one side of the third floor — and that Starbucks — the pier doesn’t look out onto the ocean. “I’ve never seen a pier like this anywhere in the country,” Blatstein said. He promised to install more windows in the pier, offering gorgeous views overlooking the city.

Windows are a good start. But can Bart Blatstein really kickstart Atlantic City? Read more »

Blatstein Unveils Atlantic City Pier Plans: “This Place Won’t Fail”

The Playground - Outside

Image Courtesy Steelman Partners and Tower Investments

Saying he would make Atlantic City the “the capital of entertainment on the East Coast,” Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein unveiled his dramatic redevelopment for the Pier Shops at Caesars today. The pier, which Blatstein’s Tower Investments is developing along with casino architect Paul Steelman’s firm, has been rechristened The Playground.

“I promise you, this will become the number one tourist attraction in Atlantic City,” Blatstein said yesterday at a dog-and-pony show at the pier. “I guarantee it.” Later, he doubled down on the pier’s success: “It’s a symbol of what Atlantic City is going to become… With Paul here by my side, this place can’t fail. It won’t fail. I don’t want to want it to sound oysters here, but I have never failed in my career. I have never not picked an area that has not turned around. This is going to be the greatest success of my career.” Read more »

Bart Blatstein To Present Pier Shops Plans Wednesday

Pier Shops escalator

The late Mitch Hedberg would not be happy with this sign. (Photo: Dan McQuade)

As we reported on Tuesday, Bart Blatstein has settled his legal dispute with Caesars and his plan for the Pier Shops is back on.

Blatstein’s press person sent out a release this morning with details on his announcement for the Pier Shops at Caesars. Blatstein has grand plans for the mall, so the all-caps subject line was warranted: “BART BLATSTEIN TO UNVEIL DRAMATIC REDEVELOPMENT PLANS FOR THE PIER AT CAESAR’S – MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1st AT 12 NOON IN ATLANTIC CITY.” Read more »

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