Philadelphia's Post Brothers expanding

Michael, left, and Matthew Pestronk at the Atlantic Building, which they are developing.
Michael, left, and Matthew Pestronk at the Atlantic Building, which they are developing. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff)
Posted: October 26, 2012

The Pestronk brothers, known for their development projects in Philadelphia and for going nose-to-nose with the city's building-trade unions, are hiring.

The brothers, who do business as the Post Brothers, aren't looking for carpenters, masons, or electricians. Their job fair, set for 10 a.m. Friday at their newly purchased building, the Atlantic, at Broad and Spruce Streets, isn't intended to ratchet up tensions between the developers and the unions, nor is the plan to disturb the extremely fragile peace between them.

"We've been growing consistently and we're starting new projects," said Michael Pestronk, chief executive of Post Brothers Apartments L.L.C. in Germantown.

With 70 employees now, the brothers want to bring on 35 more - construction managers and superintendents, leasing agents, maintenance technicians, housekeepers, security supervisors, facility managers, and marketing assistants.

"We are bringing online projects that were in construction mode and are now going into occupancy mode," he said, as he sat with his brother, Matthew, Post's president, in an office at the Atlantic.

In September, after months of pickets, protests, and punches at the brothers' Goldtex development on 12th Street north of Vine, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D., Phila.) brokered a handshake deal that ended union picketing of the $38 million apartment building project.

The pickets went up months earlier after the brothers refused to keep the job 100 percent union. Unlike most developers, they act as their own general contractor, bidding out subcontracts in the various trades and building in a contingency fund -- $2 million in this project. Michael Pestronk said they tapped into that fund to cover $200,000 of extra security. On a typical project, the brothers will use less than half of the money set aside for contingencies.

The deal, according to the building trades, was that the brothers would, as much as possible, bring union workers onto the Goldtex site. But, they said, the brothers agreed to make the $90 million Atlantic building all-union.

This week union ironworkers are working at the Goldtex site and the brothers hired a union crane company, said Patrick Gillespie, who heads the Philadelphia Building Trades Council, an umbrella group for construction unions.

Gillespie said he is worried the brothers will go back on what he says they promised in the meeting with Brady.

"That was the commitment they made," he said. "They didn't want to sign anything. We're looking forward to that being lived up to."

That's not exactly how the brothers described the deal. They promised, they said, to give union contractors the chance to beat any bid.

"If [unions] can match the price, we'd prefer to do it that way," Michael Pestronk said, "because the unions go out of their way to be a pain in the ..."

It was at that point that his brother, who had been largely silent, spoke up passionately. He wanted, he said, to change the subject, instead talking about the Atlantic - how he's working to land a big-box retailer, such as Bed Bath & Beyond, for the lower floors, along with a restaurant.

The most likely scenario, he said, would be a health club on the second, third, and fourth floors - maybe more, up to seven floors, with 200 apartments on the rest of the building's 30 floors.

That, he said, is the point - not the continuing dispute with the building trades.

"We're doing more for the economic development of this city than anyone else - with no government help," he said. "We don't want to be associated in the public with this low-level labor fracas."


Contact Jane M. Von Bergen at jvonbergen@phillynews.com, @JaneVonBergen on Twitter, or at 215-854-2769. Read her workplace blog at www.philly.com/jobbing .

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