Neighbors move to stop Bart Blatstein's Broad and Washington tower in court

Two residents of the South Philadelphia neighborhood where developer Bart Blatstein plans an apartment tower, shopping complex, and parking garage are challenging the city zoning board's approval of the project.

Louise Hanible and Gwendolyn Toler have filed notices of appeal with the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas opposing the plan for the northeast corner of Broad Street and Washington Avenue, according to documents reviewed this week.

The residents' challenge is the latest obstacle for Blatstein's proposal, which has come under withering criticism from neighbors. The owner of the proposed development site and Blatstein are also battling in court over control of the property.

Even if unsuccessful, the appeals likely spell further delays for the plan, said Craig Schelter, a former Planning Commission director who now works as a private consultant for development projects.

"They could keep this thing going," he said.

The appeal notices, filed June 14, seek to reverse the Zoning Board of Adjustment's May approvals for the project, which would include a 32-story tower and an outdoor shopping mall atop a city-block-sized podium of bigger stores and parking.

The notices did not spell out Hanible's and Toler's grounds for appealing the zoning approvals. Neither answered calls seeking comment.

Community members complained at past public hearings that the project would overwhelm the neighborhood and that its blank ground-floor facades would dull the streetscape.

Neighborhood opposition prompted City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, whose district includes the development site, to propose legislation that would bar construction at the property for a year. The legislation has not progressed since its introduction in early May, but could still be advanced, Johnson spokeswoman Kaitlyn Manasterski said.

Blatstein attorney Ronald J. Patterson said he would have no comment on the appeals until briefs are filed specifying their grounds. Zoning board spokeswoman Karen Guss had no comment on the pending litigation.

Blatstein is separately fighting in court to retain control of the roughly five-acre proposed development site, which he has had under purchase agreement from an affiliate of Hudson Realty Capital L.L.C. of New York.

Hudson has argued that Blatstein's company forfeited its interest in the land by failing to complete the $18 million purchase by a March 15 deadline. It is seeking a judgment that its contract with the developer is no longer valid, and that it is entitled to damages because the purchase was not completed as scheduled.

jadelman@phillynews.com

215-854-2615 @jacobadelman