Pestronk Bros. take on new Center City project despite union troubles

Matt (left) and Mike Pestronk say they've been threatened and harassed by members of construction unions over their company's Goldtex building project. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Staff)
Matt (left) and Mike Pestronk say they've been threatened and harassed by members of construction unions over their company's Goldtex building project. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Staff)
Posted: August 01, 2012

DESPITE THEIR months-long troubles with construction unions protesting outside the Goldtex Building in Callowhill, the Pestronk brothers are optimistic about plans for a mixed-use retail-residential project at the Atlantic Building, which they just purchased, on the northwest corner of Broad and Spruce streets, across from the Kimmel Center.

Michael Pestronk, a partner in Post Brothers Apartments, said Monday that the Goldtex protests have not dissuaded his brother Matthew and him from investing in the city.

"But the other incidents, which are building-trade-union-related — violence, city political problems, slander, etc. — those things are certainly a factor in our decision making, just like anything else, [such as] real-estate taxes, demand from renters, proximity to schools," Michael Pestronk said.

Pat Gillespie, business manager for the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council, denied that his members have been violent, despite the recent arrests of two union members for allegedly beating one of the Goldtex contractors.

"So far the positives still far outweigh the negatives. Philadelphia is a great place to live," Pestronk said. "We think demand for our unique product offering is strong, and we are looking forward to building more great buildings here and bringing more private investment to the city."

He also confirmed Monday that the company bought the building for "more than $22 million" about a week ago, as reported by the Philadelphia Business Journal. The company said "it's safe to assume" that it intends to turn the building into apartments and that it would like to find a department store or other large tenant to take the first several floors, which formerly housed Ted's Montana Grill, the Ted Turner restaurant.

Pestronk said that since the arrests, things continued to be calmer Monday at the Goldtex, at 12th and Wood streets, where the brothers are renovating the former shoe-and-textile factory into high-end loft apartments.

The Atlantic, a 21-story, 330,000-square-foot tower office building constructed to house offices for the Atlantic Richfield Oil Refining Co., is about 60 percent vacant. The law firm Klehr Harrison was once a tenant.

Contact Valerie Russ at 215-854-5987 or russv@phillynews.com, or follow her on Twitter @ValerieRussDN.

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