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Design Advocacy Group Critiques Bart Blatstein Projects

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The local organization say his projects have a lot of room for improvement

The Design Advocacy Group called Bart Blatstein's proposed projects "stunningly overbuilt."
The Design Advocacy Group called Bart Blatstein's proposed projects "stunningly overbuilt."
Rendering by Cope Linder Architects

There's no doubt about it: Bart Blatstein is a contentious fellow in Philadelphia right about now. The developer has proposed two significant developments in South Philly, including a superblock project at South Broad and Washington Avenue and another project along the Delaware River Waterfront.

And many people have their problems with both. Since February a petition has been circulating protesting the Delaware waterfront project. And at a recent Civic Design Review meeting, the committee called Blatstein's designs "perfunctory" at best and suggested he go back to the drawing board.

Now, the Design Advocacy Group of Philadelphia, a volunteer organization that promotes public discussion about design, has entered the debate by voicing their concerns with the projects in a commentary article for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Here's what they had to say about the South Broad Street project, which the group calls "stunningly overbuilt" and "outdated":

From every vantage point, its huge, lifeless facades would create vast and forbidding street-level walls, ignoring the modern public's sensible preference for walkable streets with varied and engaging street frontages. [...]

An especially curious aspect of the project is its rooftop village, "reminiscent of a village in Provence," Blatstein says. [...] Besides the questionable business viability of this weird location, why is it accessible, even in Tower's second design iteration, only at Washington and 13th, this time with an open stairwell?

As for the waterfront plans, which call for a suburban-like development with a strip mall, the Design Advocacy Group asks, "Do we really need another convenience store on Columbus Boulevard?

Whether Blatstein responds to the critiques remain to be seen, though based on past history, he probably will. Remember his letter to the Inquirer in which he said architecture critic Inga Saffron was living in a "fantasy land?"

You can read the full commentary by the Design Advocacy Group here.