Last night we cruised by Burg’s Hideaway Lounge at 21st and Federal to see what the progress looked like. And low and behold, the former Buckminster’s was open. It was a very soft opening with no food and just draft beer available for sampling. But Ori Feibush’s redo of Burg’s was welcoming neighbors to check out the place. Gone are the white and teal walls of Buckminster’s, replaced with browns and wood. A mishmash of bar stools now line the bar. Tables in the front have been replaced by a wraparound communal table that can seat at least ten.
Real estate developers tend to have a funny relationship to politics. On the one hand, they often flood local elections with campaign donations and relentlessly lobby for policies that will make their work easier and more profitable. On the other hand, they need friends in government in order to make deals and get important approvals, so their public political statements are usually diplomatic, calculated to achieve a certain result without offending anyone powerful.
President-elect Donald Trump, who started his career as a real estate developer, fits that mold in some ways and smashes it in others. While his pronouncements are calculated for advantage, they are also routinely offensive, though more often to the powerless than the powerful. And in some respects—his bombast, his ego, his unembarrassed pursuit of profit and tacky opulence—he provides the world with a cartoon picture of the stereotypical real estate man.
I was curious how some of Philadelphia’s more prominent developers felt about having one of their own in the White House, so I asked a few. Philadelphia is, of course, a Democratic Party town, and for the most part, these developers’ comments echoed the sort of restrained, cautious acceptance we’ve seen from prominent Democratic officials in the wake of the election. But in many instances, I detected an undercurrent of despair.
“The public perception of real estate developers, as a result of Trump’s ascension to the Presidency, has already changed,” said Ken Weinstein, a Germantown developer and owner of the Trolley Car Diner. “More than a few people, upon learning that I am a developer, have already asked if I pay taxes, if I stiff my subcontractors and how many times I have filed for bankruptcy (yes, no and zero). Most developers are ethical business people so using Trump as an example of a typical real estate developer is not accurate.”
“I think he has developed many abysmal projects with little thought given to the value of community impact or design,” said Lindsey Scannapieco, who owns the former Bok Technical High School, one of the biggest buildings in South Philadelphia, which not been free of controversy. “However, I hope that his push on infrastructure investment provides momentum for thoughtful and important re-investments that create a more equitable landscape across the country.” Read more »
Point Breeze developer Ori Feibushis offering $25,000 to anyone who can identify seven people he says vandalized his OCF Realty office in Graduate Hospital on November 25th. Read more »
Everyone’s favorite real estate developer Ori Feibush took to Facebook Wednesday morning to pat the city on back.
After two days of Democratic National Convention fanfare, business has apparently been good for Feibush’s five OCF Coffee Houses sprinkled across select city neighborhoods. Read more »
The good news: Ori Feibush is right. The bad news: Ori Feibush is right.
If a newly-released RealtyTrac analysis of property sales data in marginal neighborhoods across the country is any guide, we can expect continued fireworks in Point Breeze for years to come.
That’s because according to RealtyTrac, zip code 19146 is one of the “35 Best Down-and-Out Neighborhoods to Buy a Home.”
Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac analyzed data on 3,561 urban ZIP codes in the United States to come up with its list of 35 “Rough-and-Tumble Neighborhoods on the Rebound.” Read more »
The verdict in the federal civil lawsuit between Point Breeze developer Ori Feibush and 2nd District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson was remarkable for a couple reasons.
Think about it on the most basic level: A federal jury determined, by a preponderance of the evidence, that a sitting Councilman was guilty of the kind of petty abuse of power that everyone suspects, but can never prove, that Philadelphia politicians are involved in all the time. In the jury’s view, Johnson had blocked the sale of two city-owned lots to a developer because that developer was a political opponent. Johnson maintains that politics had nothing to do with it, but the jury rejected that. They saw it as cheap retaliation under the color of the law.
On another level, it was remarkable to hear judges, jurors and city attorneys talk openly in court about Councilmanic prerogative, an unwritten tradition that lets Council members control development in their districts. The tradition occupies a shadowy sort of space in the mythos of local politics. How real is it, reporters and political observers sometimes wonder? How powerful? How ripe for abuse? And then right there in court, lawyers for the city government flatly stipulated that Councilmanic prerogative is so solid a custom that it might as well be written policy.
But even though the jury ruled that prerogative was the moving force that led to the retribution against Feibush, the verdict won’t end the tradition. It’s unlikely even to slow it down. Here’s why: Read more »
A jury determined on Wednesday that Councilman Kenyatta Johnson blocked the sale of two vacant lots in Point Breeze to developer Ori Feibush in an act of political retaliation.
The jury found in favor of Feibush, who filed suit against Johnson in the summer of 2014 in the midst of a campaign to take Johnson’s City Council seat. It awarded Feibush compensatory damages of $34,000. Feibush had sought damages of $275,000.
Trial hearings began Tuesday morning in a federal civil lawsuit filed by Point Breeze developer Ori Feibush, who claims that 2nd District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson refused to authorize the sale of two vacant lots on Cleveland Street as an act of political retaliation because Feibush was challenging him in a City Council race last year.
The case began as a suit filed by Feibush against Johnson, but it has effectively become a case between Feibush and the practice of Councilmanic Prerogative, the unwritten legislative tradition that gives Council members de facto control over land development in their districts. The court previously dismissed several complaints against Johnson specifically because he enjoys “legislative immunity,” which prevents lawmakers from being sued over law-making activity.
An eight-member jury heard testimony from four witnesses Tuesday. The trial is expected to conclude Wednesday, and the jury will likely need to consider a few key questions: Read more »
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect a correction. The city-owned properties in question have not been sold.
Jury selection starts this morning in developer Ori Feibush’s federal lawsuit against Councilman Kenyatta Johnson. The case is the second culmination of the years-long drama between the two Point Breeze residents; the first was Johnson’s decisive victory over Feibush in the 2nd District Council race last spring. Can he fight off another Feibush attack? Read more »
On the eve of an election day, this wasn’t exactly the drama we were expecting out of Point Breeze but it does involve Ori Feibush of OCF Realty, so there is that. A Craigslist post went up offering Breezy’s Cafe location at 1200 Point Breeze Avenue for rent. The ad sets the availability of the space as October, 2016. This was a surprise to Point Breeze residents as the cafe was a welcome addition and seems to have a loyal following.
On Friday, October 30th, Breezy’s owner Kristin Wolack responded to an article about the spot’s potential closure saying that they are not closing but are looking for another location in Point Breeze. In her Facebook post, Wolack cites issues with heating and cooling in the building as well as issues with water leaks. Breezy’s landlord is Feibush.
Yesterday, Feibush went to Facebook to respond to questions he’s received about pushing Breezy’s out and why he couldn’t make things work out. According to Feibush, he put $150,000 into the building, provided a year of free rent and covered Breezy’s security deposit to get the cafe open. Feibush feels that,”rather than take that opportunity and run with it, they took a crap all over it.”