Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein has been called many things: ambitious, creative, visionary.
Until Jan. 25, he could have been called something else: a tax delinquent.
Since 2011, his company, 1033 North Second Associates LP, owed back taxes on a building in Northern Liberties, according to city records.
The $120,274.89 debt included property taxes, a city lien, penalties, interest and other fees.
Blatstein paid the overdue bill late last month after being contacted by WHYY/NewsWorks and the Philadelphia Daily News. He said he learned about the debt during the same week reporters called him about it.
“The Blatstein companies own more than 100 properties in the city of Philadelphia,” Blatstein said in a statement. “We just became aware of this tax issue.”
Blatstein developed the Piazza in Northern Liberties, among several other projects.
Revenue Commissioner Keith Richardson said the city tries to contact all property tax delinquents through both phone calls and letters. He said the city was taking additional steps to deal with Blatstein’s delinquent taxes.
“We were already working on something,” Richardson said. “I can’t tell you what we were doing, but we were aware of it.”
A spokesman for Blatstein said he is contesting the delinquency, but would not explain the basis for the challenge.
Blatstein’s company, in fact, should not have been charged for the entire tax bill.
After we started asking questions, city officials reviewed Blatstein’s records and determined that his building should be credited with a tax abatement for part of 2011, the year he racked up the back taxes. His company applied for that abatement several years ago, but it wasn’t approved then.
As long as Blatstein doesn’t owe unpaid taxes on other properties, the city said he’ll get a refund of roughly $24,250 — about one-fifth of his total delinquent bill.
Blatstein has dreams of building a casino and entertainment complex at the former site of the Philadelphia Daily News and Inquirer. He is one of six applicants facing off for the city’s second casino license, which became available when the Foxwoods project collapsed.
Will his former delinquency hurt his chances?
Richard McGarvey, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, said the state investigates each applicant extensively. But he wouldn’t say whether or not it scrutinizes past delinquencies.
“I can’t really say to you what may or may not come out of those investigations,” McGarvey said, “and I certainly can’t speculate on tax delinquency.”
But Jeffrey Coy, a former Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board member, said it could be cause for concern.
“I would think it would be examined,” he said. “The fact that it was paid would be the good news. The fact that it ever existed is the bad news.”