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Curbed Awards '12: Most Embattled Construction Project

There really is no contest when it comes to this award. The fight between Philadelphia's building trade unions and the Post Bros. (a development company owned by brothers Michael and Matthew Pestronk) turned the construction site of the former Goldtex shoe factory at 12th and Wood into a war zone—albeit one you're unlikely to see in a Kathryn Bigelow film.

While there are serious issues raised by this conflict—the role of organized labor in Philadelphia; the segregation of construction sites and the American labor movement overall; etc.—it was almost impossible to consider them based on the bizarre (and ongoing) death match that ensued. The story is so unflattering, it's amazing it didn't go national.

The background: The Post Brothers bought what's familiarly known as the Goldtex building for conversion into high-end rental apartments. The $38 million project is just one of many by the thirtysomething brothers, whose relative youth perhaps allows them to pretend Philadelphia union politics don't exist.

When the brothers realized it was financially impossible to have a union-only site, they decided to mix it up—a major no-no in this town. This didn't sit well with the Philadelphia Building Trades Council, an umbrella org that represents a number of different unions, so the Council initiated protests.

But we're not talking the kind of protests where people sit in a circle and sing "Kumbaya." There were traditional protest tactics—the inflatable rat; banners and signs—but then there were...other things, some of them chronicled by traditional media, others by the Pestronks, others by independent sources to us.

· Illegally blocking vehicles, deliveries, construction equipment
· Tire slashing
· Peeing into bottles and throwing them onto the site
· Creating and distributing a flyer about the bathroom habits of Matthew Pestronk's dog Chief
· Creating and distributing a flyer with a photo of Carrie Pestronk that said "Carrie Pestronk likes to get hard with it."
· Physical assaults
· Blocking deliveries, vehicles
· Threats, intimidation of current site workers
· Site vandalism

Oh, and so much more. As the Inquirer's architecture critic Inga Saffron put it in her superb piece about the battle, "The two sides are now engaged in a fight to the death."
· Union vs. Post Bros. Archives [CPHI]

Goldtex

315 North 12th Street, Philadelphia, PA