Philadelphia has a few apparent Donald Trump connections. For one thing, the leader in polls for the GOP presidential nomination attended Penn, as have many of his kids. He also planned a 45-story Trump Tower to be built on the Delaware that fizzled out a couple of years ago.
But there is still a Trump connection in the Philadelphia real estate game. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has owned a controlling interest in the Piazza since 2013. Here’s what you should know about Kushner and what he’s been doing in Philadelphia.
How close is he to Trump?
Well, he’s married to Ivanka Trump. She’s the daughter who appeared on “The Apprentice” and works for the Trump Organization.
Kushner, who declined a request for an interview through a spokesperson, is apparently supporting Trump’s presidential bid. The New York Times reported in July that he was “making calls on behalf of his father-in-law to try to rally support.” Kusher also owns the New York Observer, which the NYT noted has given him some political prominence.
Did Trump help get him into the real estate business?
Uh, not even close. Kushner comes from a wealthy family that also made its fortune through real estate. Kushner took over the business, The Kushner Companies, in 2008 and oversees thousands of residential apartments and millions of square feet of office space nationally.
So is it just the Piazza he has here in Philadelphia?
Kushner Companies has control of the Piazza and Liberties Walk. Liberties Walk is the four-block strip of restaurants, shops and apartments across the street from the Piazza. The value of the Piazza plus Liberties Walk was believed to be about $130 million.
Most of Kushner’s holdings are in New York. He also redeveloped a property in the South Hills neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
But I thought Bart Blatstein had the Piazza?
Blatstein developed and owned the Piazza from 2009 to 2013. Kushner bought it in 2013. As controlling owner, his company has been in charge while some significant changes have occurred.
Well, shortly after Kushner bought it in 2013, the Piazza hosted the Brooklyn Flea market. This move would not have happened without Kushner. The Brooklyn Flea’s co-owner said Kushner approached him about moving to the Piazza and said “he’s going to run the ball even further than Bart (Blatstein) has.”
But the Brooklyn Flea didn’t last long. It closed forever after a few months, citing high booth rents and poor marketing and promotion from the Piazza among other things.
And in May 2014, Kushner Companies was in charge when the Piazza banned 104.5 free concerts — to the delight of No Libs neighbors. That decision happened after a bunch of neighbors complained about concertgoers being too drunk and getting it on in public.
How successful has the Piazza and Liberties Walk been under Kushner?
Tough to say. Northern Liberties in general is still considered an up-and-coming neighborhood though its development has slowed down. The Piazza itself has seen high-profile exits and entries of its clients that one would expect with any similar development.
In addition to the failure of the Brooklyn Flea, one of its most popular tenants, PYT, is leaving (as well as the bar Emmanuelle). PYT’s owner said he started losing interest in the Piazza when Blatstein sold his controlling interest. But Wahlburger’s appears to be coming to the Piazza to make up for the loss.
This summer, the coworking space WeWork announced it would be opening up a location at the Piazza. It is scheduled to open sometime next year.
Trash been a problem, though. Last year, neighbors complained numerous times about overflowing trash bins at Liberties Walk, and Kushner’s company was fined 15 times in eight months. Matt Ruben, president of the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association, called it a “piss-poor” job of management.
The Piazza will likely always be a bit of a controversial spot. It’s located in a gentrified neighborhood that is possibly Philly’s most modern and has also seen its share of violent crime. Even before Kushner took over, Philly Mag wrote a post about the complex, calling it “What’s Wrong With Philadelphia” because of its inflated rents and “cheap” design.