Post Bros. development group buys stake in sequel to Northern Liberties’ Piazza complex from Bart Blatstein
The deal all but completes Bart Blatstein's withdrawal from a neighborhood with which he has long been identified.
Bart Blatstein, long identified with Northern Liberties’ development boom, has all but left the trendy neighborhood after selling a controlling stake in a project he’d planned on land beside his Piazza at Schmidts complex.
The controlling interest in the new project on a roughly four-acre lot at Second Street and Germantown Avenue was acquired by Post Bros, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported this week. Post owns the Piazza apartment and shopping complex, which Blatstein developed beginning almost 20 years ago.
Northern Liberties Development LP, the Blatstein affiliate that has owned the vacant parcel at 1104 N. Hancock St., has been shepherding the project — coined Piazza Terminal — through its permitting process since July 2018.
The entity was granted a construction permit Friday for a complex of three 12-story buildings housing 861 residential units and 422 parking spaces, records show.
But Blatstein told the Business Journal that his company, Tower Investments Inc., “isn’t actively involved” in the construction slated for the site, which sits south of the Shops at Schmidt’s retail building on Girard Avenue. Blatstein also developed and later sold that building.
“This is the final, large piece left,” Blatstein told the business weekly. “It’s exciting to see it now go the next level."
Blatstein spent much of the early 2000s developing the original Piazza project, comprising 500 apartments and 125,000 feet of commercial space across nine adjoining properties on land that included the former site of the Schmidt’s brewery.
He sold most of those assets in 2013 to Kushner Cos. of New York and Oaktree Capital Management LP of Los Angeles for a reported $130 million. Kushner Cos. was run at that time by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Post acquired Kushner’s stake in the complex for $44.1 million in May 2018.
In an emailed response to questions from The Inquirer, Post president Matthew Pestronk declined to discuss how much was paid for his company’s stake in the Piazza Terminal venture and how large an interest had been acquired, citing a nondisclosure agreement. Oaktree is not involved in the venture, he said.
No documentation of the property’s sale had been recorded by the city as of Thursday afternoon.
By announcing itself as the project’s developer after its permits had been issued, Post may have avoided challenges to those applications by labor groups that have attempted to derail past projects over the developer’s use of nonunion workers.
Pestronk was targeted by labor leaders including John J. Dougherty, the indicted head of the politically powerful International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, when his company used a mix of union and nonunion contractors for the conversion of a former industrial building into the Goldtex apartments, just north of Center City.
He and others also have accused union leaders of interfering in Post’s approvals to renovate the former “Quaker” warehouse in North Philadelphia into a 350-unit apartment building.
The construction permit application for the Piazza Terminal project originally was rejected by the Department of Licenses and Inspections because its exterior walls would have come closer to the property’s border than permitted by the city’s building code, records show.
The Board of Building Standards, a city panel that reviews appeals related to building safety and the application of the city’s building code, ruled in favor of the project after a Nov. 12 hearing.
Pestronk said the timing of the sale’s announcement had not been intentional.
“We have a great relationship with the building trades today and always have at the individual trade level,” he said. “The distant past was deeply marred by the antagonism of a few bad actors, and it’s not productive to discuss the past. We are excited to help grow Philadelphia for everyone.”
Blatstein did not respond to a phone message.
Dougherty spokesperson Frank Keel, who has also represented Blatstein, said the labor leader was at a funeral and not immediately available to comment.
Despite the permit for the lower number of units, the Business Journal reported that Post eventually hopes to build nearly 1,100 apartments across multiple buildings at the Piazza Terminal site at a cost of $500 million.
With the sale of that property and others, Blatstein’s Northern Liberties holdings may now consist only of the Benjamin Moore paint store on Girard Avenue and the Rialto office building, which once housed Tower’s offices.
The firm is now based in a Colonial Revival-style rowhouse he owns at 1719 S. Rittenhouse Square, near his 17,000-square-foot home.