Matthew Pestronk: “We Followed the Rules”

Developer Matthew Pestronk, one-half of the Post Bros.–the company converting an old factory at 12th and Wood into the Goldtex Apartments–says he and his brother Mike did everything L&I told them to do before they held their VIP preview party last night at the building (for more on the party’s promotion, go here). It wasn’t a unique situation: Real estate developers often have previews of properties that aren’t entirely finished–hence the word “preview.” “There’s a body of compliance to get a temporary event permit,” said Matt today. “We spoke to L&I earlier in the week, and they assured us we got the permit. We did exactly what we were told to do.”

But when an L&I inspector came to the site at 4 p.m. yesterday, he told Matt, “L&I will not allow me to issue the permit.” The official reason Matt was given for the denial was the lack of a working fire protection system, but he said they’d addressed that. If a building does not yet have a sprinkler system, the people holding the event must have appropriate personnel on site to deal with fire emergencies. Matt says they did–“we take safety very seriously.”

As it happened, the L&I denial simply meant people couldn’t go inside the building, so the party was held outside in the courtyard. Most people didn’t seem to know it had been planned differently.

The Pestronks have had a brutal time with the building trades union, who have done everything they can to stop the brothers from getting this building finished with a mixed-labor force. We asked Matt Pestronk if he thought there might have been a connection between the L&I last-minute turnaround and the building trades. “Uh, yeah,” he said, with a disbelieving laugh, as if the question was preposterous. “They tried to use their influence to stop us from having an event.”

He’s not alone in thinking there might be some connection. Inga Saffron spoke with someone at L&I to try to figure out how things evolved.

I asked Kennedy who had filed the compaint, but she said L&I has a policy of not disclosing names. But I couldn’t help noting that the first person to sound the alarm was Frank Keel, the official PR guy for the Building Trades Council, whose triumphant email arrived in my inbox at 8:37 p.m. L&I “showed up” before the VIP party and “shut it down,” Keel’s email chortled. In a telephone interview, all he would own up to was that, “concerned citizens who have been by there, and seen the incomplete state of the building, reached out to L&I.”

The Post Bros. are planning to file a Freedom of Information Act request “to see how it went down,” Matt said. “We followed the rules.”

L&I Panty Raid at Post Bros. Goldtex Building [Changing Skyline]

The Brothers Who Busted Philly Unions. For Good. [Philly Mag]