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PHILADELPHIA-During a ICSC luncheon program outside Deuce Restaurant in Liberties Walk directly across from the Piazza construction site, Bart Blatstein, CEO of locally based Tower Investments, described his vision of Piazza, the centerpiece of Tower’s Liberties Walk mixed-use development under way in Northern Liberties. Construction cost for Piazza is $150 million, he said.

It will consist of four new buildings and two converted former warehouses and will contain an aggregate of 430 residential units and 100,000 sf of ground-floor retail, all surrounding a public plaza. The plaza, he said, “is modeled after Italian piazzas. It’s not new urbanism, but a return to how we grew up, where you could walk to the local bar, restaurant, park and store.” It will host neighborhood concerts, festivals and other cultural events. The targeted tenant mix of Piazza retail is “innovative entrepreneurs with restaurants, boutiques and community services,” according to Blatstein.

Liberties Walk spans a four-block area along N. Second St. and encompasses 72 apartments, 19 townhouses and approximately 35,000 sf of retail, including Deuce. The residential portion of this phase is sold out. “From the start, our target was people in their mid-20s to late 30s,” Blatstein said. The result is “an alternative arts-and-nightlife destination.”

Tower’s revitalization efforts in the Northern Liberties neighborhood began when Blatstein acquired the former Schmidts brewery for $1.8 million at a sheriff’s sale in January 2000. Tower began buying and amassed approximately 20 acres of land surrounding the abandoned brewery. “Land that was selling then for between $5 and $6 per sf is now selling for $150 per sf,” he said.

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