Councilman Seeks One-Year Moratorium On Controversial Blatstein Proposal


Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, writes Saksa, cites “the tower’s height and the perceived dearth of parking for the neighborly opprobrium.” | Photo: Brad Larrison, for NewsWorks

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, writes Saksa, cites “the tower’s height and the perceived dearth of parking for the neighborly opprobrium.” | Photo: Brad Larrison, for NewsWorks

  • Councilman Kenyatta Johnson has introduced a bill that would deny, for 12 months, Bart Blatstein’s Tower Investments the right to construct anything on the site of his much-derided 32-story apartment complex at Broad Street & Washington Avenue. When asked by Plan Philly’s Jim Saksa to respond to possible concerns that his measure amounts to a return to the old days of selective councilmanic obstruction of private development, Johnson stressed that he is “just pumping the breaks. We want to work in partnership with the community and the developer so it’s a win-win for everyone.”
  • Opponents of the proposed tax on sugary drinks—or as they inclusively frame it, the “grocery tax”—flocked to City Hall yesterday to protest what some feel to be an unreasonable and unpredictable revenue stream to guarantee the $30 million needed to fund Mayor Kenny’s call for universal pre-kindergarten programs. Also, NewWorks relates that self-styled “Stadium Stompers” converged this morning on the office of City Council President and relevant Counilman Darrell Clarke, registering their opposition to Temple University’s proposed 35,000-seat football stadium in North Philadelphia.
  • NewsWorks discusses the opening on May 12 of the Roxborough Development Corporation’s pocket park that will connect the 6100 block of Ridge Avenue with the Leverington parking lot. For the past year RDC has worked to instill a sense of the vacant lot’s possibility, tapping Groundswell Design Group to lead the collaborative design effort. As soon as some trees and shrubs were planted, the requests for creative programming came pouring it. A farmers market and a dance performance have already graced the 6,800-square-foot space.
About the author

Stephen Currall recently received his BA in history from Arcadia University. Before beginning doctoral studies, he is pursuing his interest in local history, specifically just how Philadelphians engage their vibrant past. Besides skimming through 18th century letters, Steve is also interested in music and travel.

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  1. This Blatstein situation will almost certainly end up in court and this will put the city in a more difficult pickle than it is in already. Unless the Mayor signs the bill to block the construction of Blatstein’s project, the city will be sued, incurring huge legal fees and end up paying off Blatstein millions of dollars to take back the property including his legal fees incurred in all phases of the project. Were the city not to do that, it would send a sour taste to all developers considering investing in the city as it would remind all that the city can act like Vladimar Putin in seizing property and stopping construction at a moment’s whim. To have a Russian style government is not a good thing to have as the United States Government through an US Attorney will sue to prevent this from happening here in Philadelphia.

    Jim Kenny has a problem that Kenyatta Johnson created for him. Kenny knows fellow Councilpersons will be loathe to vote against KJ lest they be accused of racism. What KJ wants to see happen will ruin the covenant between developers and the city and cause them to think long and hard about investing in Philadelphia. Plus KJ wants to make uncomfortable any Common Pleas judge considering denying what he wants the city to do on Blatstein’s lot.

    Most likely scenario, Kenny will have City attorneys meet with Blatstein’s attorneys to see if Blatstein would be willing to meet again with neighbors to discuss this. Something would have to give if he is going to meet a raucous group of neighbors already energized by KJ’s irresponsible handling of this. One possible solution would be for the City to pay for new architectural drawings incorporating a smaller structure and compromises between Blatstein and the neighbors. Another would be to give him another tract of city owned land for another development at no cost to him. Only cooler heads will work toward a settlement, not hotheads like KJ and the neighbors pouncing on a victory.

    Even if a Common Pleas judge upholds the validity of what KJ did in stopping the project, Superior Court and the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court will almost certainly uphold Blatstein’s zoning application as it was legally earned.

    • Orrrrrrrrrr maybe we’ll all realize that a property at Broad & Washington shouldnt be zoned as if it’s at 16th and Market, and we can find a developer to design something more properly sized to this location, like literally every other developer in the Broad and Washington area is doing currently.

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