The legacy of one of Philadelphia's most prominent and controversial developers will ultimately be determined by what happens in Northern Liberties.
"Hey, Bart!" yells the younger man.
"Did she have it?" Blatstein asks.
"A baby girl," says Frank, beaming.
"Congratulations!" hollers Blatstein, and drives on.
Despite the opposition he's received, he's carving out a place for himself in Northern Liberties. At one point his father calls. Blatstein puts him on speakerphone.
"Just write the truth about my son," says Harry Blatstein. "Just write the truth. That will be enough."
Later, the younger Blatstein visits a pair of local artists who are helping him with his developments. One shows him concrete made to look like stone. Another shows him concrete made to look like marble. Maybe these are the compromises necessary for a developmental daredevil, for the first guy in.
Blatstein loves it. "You'd never know that's not real stone," he says.
There's a lot of laughter and some more storytelling, and then Blatstein finishes up the morning in his private office, which is surprisingly stark. Rather than a place to rest or a glamour pit designed to impress, it looks like a place to run--a long room with little furniture, piles of books and a table big enough to hold architectural plans.
From here, a window over his desk affords him a view of the initial 12 acres he purchased almost four and a half years ago. "I didn't need to put my office here," he says. "I could be in some Center City tower, but I wanted to show my commitment."
And this is what we've come here for, isn't it--to get some sense of Bart Blatstein's commitment? Is he going to be a special developer, or merely speak of loftier things and scuttle back to his comfort zone, his shopping centers?
If it's any indication, when he looks out the window of his office, he doesn't say anything about Kmart or Rite Aid, Burger King or McDonald's.
"You know," he says, "maybe other people can't see it. But I can see it. It's gonna be great," he says, rising to shake hands. "It's gonna be drop-dead."
Senior writer Steve Volk (email@example.com) last wrote about drug dealing on 13th Street.
In addition to his development of Northern Liberties, Bart Blatstein is pursuing such an impressive array of other projects that before long we could all feel Blatsteined!
Here's the rundown of what amounts to more than $500 million in total development.