Developer Bart Blatstein and caterer Joseph Volpe say they have signed a contract with Exelon Corp. to buy the former Delaware Station electric plant and its 1,000-foot Delaware River waterfront and river pier, in the city's Fishtown section. (More on the site here).
."We envision two boutique hotels, each leading into their own ballroom with 55-foot high ceilings," said Volpe, owner of Cescaphe Event Group, which holds 600 wedding receptions a year at its five Philadelphia venues. Over time they may add river-view apartments and a marina, Blatstein said.
"It's a one-of-a-kind property," said Blatstein, best known for the Piazza at Schmidt's and other housing-and-retail projects that have helped update the city's aging neighborhoods.Blatstein said the partners are not planning a retail center nor any industrial uses.
He and Volpe wouldn't comment on the price, pending the sale closing. The pair has started talking to banks, Volpi added.
Exelon spokesman Robert Judge confirmed the company has made a sale agreement, but won't confirm the identity of the buyer or the price. Judge said at least five serious bidders expressed interest in the property after the Binswanger real estate agency offered it for sale last fall. Exelon and Blatstein hope to close the deal in March.
The property features 300,000 sq. ft. of vacant buildings, including a power plant designed by architect John Windrim (who also did the Franklin Institute) and constructed soon after World War I on the site of 1800s-era shipyards; and 16 acres, part of it underwater. Blatstein said the main building includes a couple of 35,000 sq. ft. skylit spaces with 55-foot ceilings that could make spectacular event locations.
My colleague Inga Saffron notes that former power stations have become art museums (London's Tate), dance halls (Baltimore) and office centers (Chester, Pa., though that 10-year-old project is curently half vacant.)
Blatstein and Volpe, both Northeast Philadelphia natives, have worked together on earlier projects including the former Imperial movie house on 2nd Street, which they turned into Cescaphe Ballroom, and a second venue, Tendenza, in Northern Liberties. Volpe also holds wedding receptions at the Down Town Club in the Public Ledger Building near Independence Hall, and at the stone-fountained Curtis Center interior court next door, among other sites.
The partners have known each other since they were growing up in Northeast Philadelphia, and first went into business together with Cescaphe Hall after Volpe catered an event at Blatstein's then-Main Line home in 2002. "When you hang out with Bart, it's always exciting," Volpe told me.