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Blatstein planning retail hub for Broad and Washington

The long-blighted lot, once slated for a Will Smith project, will finally see development under a new plan.

Developer Bart Blatstein plans to turn this lot on the northeast corner of Broad Street and Washington Avenue into a "retail hub."
Developer Bart Blatstein plans to turn this lot on the northeast corner of Broad Street and Washington Avenue into a "retail hub."Read moreDavid Gambacorta / Daily News Staff

SO . . . THIS IS IT, huh?

That's been the knee-jerk reaction of anyone who has ever encountered the cracked and barren lots that serve as the southern entrance to the Avenue of the Arts at Broad Street and Washington Avenue.

The vacant slabs of real estate on the northwest and northeast corners of the intersection have been the subject of countless rumors during the last 20 years - everything from hotels and condos to a movie soundstage that was going to be built by Philly-born Hollywood star Will Smith.

All of those plans turned out to be pipe dreams, and the lots remained a double-barreled blast of blah.

But the blog Passyunk Post reported earlier this week that developer Bart Blatstein was in the process of buying the enormous parcel on the northeast corner from its current owner, Hudson Realty Capital LLC.

A source familiar with the deal said Blatstein hopes to create a retail hub on the plot, which stretches from Broad to 13th Street, and Washington Avenue to Carpenter Street.

The lot on the northwest corner is owned by the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, which doesn't appear to have any current plans for that parcel.

Officials at Hudson Realty did not return a request for comment.

Blatstein declined to elaborate on his plans for the site, which in recent years hosted occasional performances by Cirque du Soleil.

"It's a great location that warrants good use," said Tim Hitchens, of the Hawthorne Empowerment Coalition, a nearby neighborhood group.

"The surrounding neighborhoods have been growing, and the space is easily accessible by foot, bike, car and public transportation," he said. "At this point, we really don't know what Mr. Blatstein is planning, but we're hopeful."

Rammy Dongel, whose shop, Philly Marble & Tile, recently moved to a building across from the vacant parcel, said he hoped the development would provide a boost to local businesses.

"It looks dirty, very dirty, right now. At night, people drink over there and do crack," he said. "It's not good."

Thirty years ago, Rich DiCarlo said he worked in a six-story building that was situated on the now-empty northeast lot.

Eventually, the store where he works, Discount City Furniture Center, moved across Washington Avenue, next to the Rock School for Dance Education.

"You can go up and down Broad Street in both directions and not find a lot like this," he said. "I can't believe they haven't done anything with it in the last 20 years. You're 10 blocks from City Hall."

Blatstein, who is mounting a bid to transform the former Daily News/Inquirer building at 400 N. Broad St. into a hotel and casino, "will do a great job, whatever he does," DiCarlo said.