Bart Blatstein - or as we like to call him around here, Blat Bartstein - the developer pulling the strings at the Northern Liberties phenomenon known as the Piazza at Schmidts, is the subject of an article in the New York Times. The article is ostensibly about the Piazza, but we learn more about The Blat and the way he operates. For example! The executive director of the City Planning Commission thinks he’s a whiner and he owns all of the liquor licenses in the Piazza. Most intriguing, he has carte blanche to evict tenants from the Piazza if they commit the unpardonable sin of uncoolness.
Blatstein masterminded all of the restaurants in the Piazza: he bought the liquor licenses and then decided what kind of concepts - a wine bar (Vino), a 1950s diner (Darling’s), a pub (Swift Half) and a burger bar (PYT) - would exist in the spaces, then invited in restaurateurs to partner with him. But what we’d really like to know is what sort of lawyer writes up a lease contract with a cool clause? Yes, of course, the expensive kind:
Mr. Blatstein initially intended to lease his ground-floor space to established retailers, but was not able to attract any to an untested area with a bad image. Instead he divided the storefronts into tiny spaces for fledgling entrepreneurs selling clothing, art, jewelry and even magicians’ supplies. He says he has the flexibility to evict any retailer who fails to maintain a “cool space.”
As anyone who has been to the painfully uncool Riverview Plaza, an earlier project from Blatstein’s Tower Investments can attest to, Blatstein wasn’t always so concerned with cool. This was because he hadn’t yet had his midlife crisis:
When Mr. Blatstein bought the Schmidt’s Brewery, which had closed in 1987, he had no intention of creating a magnet for young people. The previous owner had rezoned the site for a shopping center, and Mr. Blatstein thought he would build one and then get out. “Then the midlife crisis hit,” he said, “and I thought, What do I do? Do I get the bright red Ferrari? And then I decided, Let me do the creative thing here. I have the opportunity to do something really cool here.”
The real shocker of this article is that somehow PYT did not get a mention. Maybe the New York Times wasn’t invited to the blogger’s brunch?