Bart Blatstein Seeks Variance for 32-Story Tower, Retail at Broad and Washington

The paperwork for the zoning variances lays it all out: 944 apartments, retail, tons of bike and car parking, and possibly a 80-room hotel.

Broad and Washington | Google Maps

Broad and Washington | Google Maps

We all know Bart Blatstein has big plans for the northeast corner of Broad and Washington, but when are we going to see some action at the lot that spans a full city block? The answer is that it could actually be soon. Fingers crossed, of course.

Blatstein is seeking zoning variances to construct one 32-story tower that consists of 944 apartments, 11 retail spaces, 882 parking spots, 357 bike parking spaces, and what the appeal refers to as 80 units of “visitor accommodations” (potentially a hotel or extended stay apartment scenario) on floors one through nine.

The plan has gone through a few iterations over the past two years. The original incarnation didn’t have a residential component, instead it was project similar to Blatstein’s work on Columbus Boulevard: a bunch of big box stores.

The apartment tower aspect was added soon thereafter, as the plan called to build one 800-unit tower over some retail. It then morphed into a dual-tower mega project that included over 1,600 apartments over 200,000-square-feet of retail and an amenity deck. Though certainly not finalized, this ZBA appeal looks to be closer to Blatstein’s first residential trick, with the possibility of a hotel now added as an intriguing wrinkle.

Blatstein could not be reached for comment on the new plans, so there’s no telling if that second tower could be built in the future.

According to Jared Brey of PlanPhilly, the new proposal is expected to officially make the rounds through Civic Design Review and Planning Commission next month. “As required by the zoning code, Blatstein has requested a meeting with Hawthorne Empowerment Coalition, the local Registered Community Organization, later this month. The zoning board hearing has not been scheduled yet,” added Brey.

Previous rendering of Broad and Washington | Photo: James Jennings Rendering:

Previous rendering of Broad and Washington | Photo: James Jennings; Rendering: Beyer Blinder Belle

It’s of note that Blatstein is heading to the ZBA at all. As Brey explains, 2nd District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson introduced a bill in June that would have allowed the project to move forward without having to seek zoning variances. “But,” notes Brey, “partially because of community concerns about the height of the towers and location of the loading areas, that bill lapsed without getting a hearing.”

Washington Avenue is brimming with potential, and its future has become a hot-button topic in city hall, real estate circles, gastropubs and social media. Developers have snapped up its many vacant lots and aging industrial buildings, and the city has been seeking to re-zone the former industrial thoroughfare in order to spur its development. Trendy businesses have open alongside long-standing construction supply warehouses, seafood mongers and auto-repair shops. Urbanists have urged the city to make the bustling corridor safer for pedestrians, bike and even cars, though those efforts look to have stalled.

Blatstein told Citified’s Holly Otterbein last summer that he believed there was the potential for $1 billion of development on Washington Avenue over the next 10 years: “Washington Avenue has always been a sleeper. It has good bones. So now that you have the people, you have the demand for commercial businesses and the demand for housing other than townhouses … A billion dollars means thousands of jobs. It means a new population next to what’s there. It means thousands of residential units and hundreds of thousands of square feet of new commercial space.”

Regardless of the criticism of Blatstein’s actual plan, the project at Broad and Washington has long been seen as a gateway from South Philly to Center City, and could very well be the tipping point in the re-birth of Washington Avenue. People, especially the near neighbors of Hawthorne, are praying he gets it right.