Developer Bart Blatstein settles six-figure tax debt

Posted: February 06, 2013

PHILADELPHIA developer Bart Blatstein has been called many things: ambitious, creative, visionary.

Until Jan. 25, he could have been called something else: a tax delinquent.

On that date, his company, 1033 North Second Associates LP, settled a $120,274.89 debt with the city that included property taxes, a city lien, penalties, interest and other fees on a building in Northern Liberties that he had owed since 2011, according to city records.

Blatstein paid the overdue bill late last month after It's Our Money contacted him. He said he learned about the debt during the same week that reporters called him about it.

"The Blatstein companies own more than 100 properties in the city of Philadelphia," Blatstein said in a statement. "We just became aware of this tax issue."

Blatstein has developed the Piazza at Schmidt's in Northern Liberties, among several other projects.

Revenue Commissioner Keith Richardson said the city tries to contact all property-tax delinquents through both phone calls and letters. He said the city had been taking additional steps to deal with Blatstein's delinquent taxes.

"We were already working on something," Richardson said. "I can't tell you what we were doing, but we were aware of it."

A spokesman for Blatstein said he is contesting the delinquency, but would not explain the basis for the challenge.

Blatstein's company, in fact, should not have been charged for the entire tax bill.

After we started asking questions, city officials reviewed Blatstein's records and determined that his building in Northern Liberties should have been credited with a tax abatement for part of 2011, the year he racked up the back taxes.

As long as Blatstein doesn't owe any other unpaid taxes on other properties, the city said he'll get a refund of roughly $24,250 - about one-fifth of his total delinquent bill.

Blatstein has dreams of building a casino and entertainment complex at the former site of the Daily News and Inquirer at Broad and Callowhill streets. He is one of six applicants facing off for the city's second casino license, which became available when the Foxwoods project in South Philly collapsed.

Will his former delinquency hurt his chances?

Richard McGarvey, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, said the state investigates each applicant extensively. But he wouldn't say whether it scrutinizes past delinquencies.

"I can't really say to you what may or may not come out of those investigations," McGarvey said, "and I certainly can't speculate on tax delinquency."

But Jeffrey Coy, a former Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board member, said it could be cause for concern.

"I would think it would be examined," he said. "The fact that it was paid would be the good news. The fact that it ever existed is the bad news."


Holly Otterbein writes for It's Our Money, a joint project of the Daily News and WHYY funded by the William Penn Foundation, that works to shed light on where your tax dollars are going.

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