If you're relatively new to Philadelphia, you probably think of Bart Blatstein as the developer who built the Piazza, or maybe as the businessman who's proposing a casino on the northern end of Center City, or perhaps as the guy who will finally, possibly, theoretically build something on the northeast corner of Broad & Washington. You may not know that he's also the one who developed large tracts on land on the South Philly waterfront, creating the popular if unexciting shopping center pictured below.
A little to the north of this suburban-style shopping center is another large parcel once owned by Mr. Blatstein that he will apparently soon own again. According to a story from the Inquirer from a week and a half ago, Blatstein has an agreement to purchase the land along the waterfront that was going to be the site for the Foxwoods Casino. It sits on Columbus Blvd., between Tasker and Reed Streets. And it's gigantic, as you might imagine. Interestingly, it was Blatstein who originally sold the land to the company that intended to open the casino, which clearly did not achieve that objective. It's an odd coincidence that Blatstein may end up with that same license that was revoked from them in 2010.
So what can we expect to see here? Well, it certainly won't be a casino, which should make people in the nearby neighborhoods very happy. We know that a strip of land along the river will be conveyed to the Natural Lands Trust in order to extend the trail along the river. So that's great. As for what else, we only have a vague comment from Alan Greenberger that the parcel will be developed with a mix of residential and commercial uses. Which sounds great to us.
Initially, we were concerned that another big-box shopping center would appear here, which would obviously be a big disappointment. Then we wondered whether all-residential might be the approach, which we would also consider to be a missed opportunity. And let's face it, residential projects along the Delaware have had a mixed history of success, to be kind. Instead, a creative mix of residential and commercial could be just the thing for this location. Look, we're not saying to build a new Piazza here. But wouldn't that be kind of cool? Or would something totally different be the prescription for this parcel? What do you think?