ATLANTIC CITY — Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein believes the resort has a bright future, and tried Tuesday to convince other developers of that.
“I’m telling you to buy here,” said Blatstein, who purchased the Pier Shops for $2.7 million in 2014 and Showboat in January for $23 million. “But most of you won’t listen. The prices of these properties are crazy.”
Blatstein addressed the International Council of Shopping Centers Conference at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
“I love running into burning buildings,” Blatstein said of how his love affair with the city started. “I love chaos. I love blight. In our business, it’s about the buy.”
The Pier was losing $3 million a year before he took over, Blatstein said.
“Now it’s $2 million in the black,” he said smiling.
The city has all of the ingredients that make it attractive to developers, Blatstein said, but one of the biggest issues facing it is its perception around the region.
“Everyone thinks that Atlantic City stinks, but it’s amazing,” he said. “Over the years, the city has just lacked a plan. There hasn’t been a plan here for years. That is starting to happen now.”
In 2014, Blatstein purchased his first property in the city, the Pier Shops, for $2.7 million, a fraction of the $200 million it cost to develop the shops in 2006. Since then, he has turned the property into a mixed-use building with retail and live entertainment all under one roof, a model that’s been successful for him in the past, including with the Piazza at Schmidts in Philadelphia’s trendy Northern Liberties area.
Blatstein’s pitch for the city made some people in the audience reconsider their view of the city’s future.
“You only hear about the negative aspects of the city,” said Matthew Malozi, vice president of RETTEW Associates of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “Listening to him talk about the city makes me interested in it.”
In addition to the Pier, Blatstein has purchased a number of other properties in the city. In July, he reopened Showboat as a hotel without casino gaming. The property had been shuttered since 2014. He also has moved to secure other properties, hoping to open entertainment venues at Garden Pier and at the site of the former volleyball court adjacent to Showboat.
“A few years back, the assessed value of Showboat was $1.16 billion dollars. We paid $23 million for the property, and it was in great shape,” Blatstein said. “It’s larger than any hotel in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what I’m going to do with it, but it’s going to be amazing.”
John Majczan, a real estate broker with PrimeSites, said he was impressed with Blatstein’s vision for the city.
“He is one of the best developers in Philadelphia,” Majczan said. “I like a lot of the stuff that he said today. It might make me look at Atlantic City.”