"Blatstein's newest development, The Piazza at Schmidt's, on Second Street in Northern Liberties, really is modeled on the Piazza Navona, and it really does include a vast public square, paved in the exact same scallop pattern as the one in Rome.
The evidence might lead to the assumption that The Piazza is a cheap, cringe-worthy theme park. In reality, The Piazza, which opens this weekend, is anything but. Actually, it's pretty wonderful.
Eight years and $100 million in the making, Blatstein's Piazza is a massive, right-brain assemblage of apartments, offices, shops, and restaurants, all set around a one-acre plaza, and cleverly linked into his earlier Liberties Walk development. Maybe because the expanding territory of Bartistan ignored so many real estate conventions, The Piazza accomplishes something rarely seen in new American developments: It feels like a real place.
Of course, no one would ever confuse the project, which occupies the southern portion of what was once the mighty Schmidt's Brewery, with Rome's glorious Baroque gathering place, with its famous Bernini fountain and larger dimensions, 2.8 acres.
But does the Piazza Navona have a 40-foot, Daktoniks LED television beaming down every Phillies game, along with movie classics on Saturday nights? How about a sound stage for rock concerts? Or a diner inspired by Blatstein's childhood memories of road-trip pit stops at Howard Johnson?"