Developer eyes 'lifestyle community' on Columbus Blvd.

Posted: February 18, 2014

DEVELOPER Eric Blumenfeld wants to dust off an old idea to transform a large swath of the city's perpetually drab waterfront.

Blumenfeld said he plans to partner with the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 to build a "lifestyle community" on the 20 acres that house the union's offices and a catering hall on Columbus Boulevard near Washington Avenue.

The site would contain a little of everything - residences, offices, restaurants and retail.

Blumenfeld said the idea was originally crafted by his father, the late developer Jack Blumenfeld, who was once tasked by former Mayor Frank Rizzo with redeveloping Penn's Landing.

"You have to think about the routine of the family of the future," he said on Friday.

"They can have dinner, go to work, go to the gym and buy a Valentine's Day gift, all within the property limits. Nobody has to get into a car."

The admittedly ambitious plan could take years to come together.

Jim Moylan, president of the Pennsport Civic Association, said he met with Blumenfeld more than a year ago to discuss the proposed project.

"This is most definitely the type of thing that we would like to see down there," he said.

"It's a wonderful conversation to have, but the key is coming up with the financing for it."

Blumenfeld said he has some financing in place already, and is working on compiling more to help cover planning and predevelopment costs, which could total more than $1 million.

The southern edge of the site brushes up against a small Comcast customer-service center at Reed Street.

A nearby plot of land had once been the proposed site of the Foxwoods casino, a project that local residents successfully opposed.

"I do believe that if the city can invest some more money on the infrastructure and connector streets, that you will see the private start pouring in," City Councilman Mark Squilla wrote in an email, noting that he, too, has met with Blumenfeld and the Sheet Metal Workers union to discuss the proposal. "Then I believe this great plan [will] move forward."

Blumenfield said the project could offer a chance to finally bring some meaningful development to the waterfront, which has long been a place where fantastic-sounding ideas have gone to die.

"This city suffers from gridlock, from people fighting each other," he said.

"If we get everyone at the table and focus on making progress, there's no reason why we can't execute this vision."

On Twitter: @dgambacorta


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