ATLANTIC CITY — The you-can-do-that-in-Philly albatross that’s been hovering over the Boardwalk since 2009, when Parx casino opened in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is about to be shot dead.
Ironic that Bart Blatstein, one of Philadelphia’s best-known developers, is the shooter.
His ammunition: The Playground, a half-million-square-foot live-music complex that opens to the public Friday on the ashes of the former Pier Shops at Caesars.
Not merely a man of means, Bart Blatstein is also a man who makes things happen when he says…
“It’s Willy Wonka,” said Bryan Dilworth, of Bonfire, the firm booking acts for The Playground’s six music venues.
The Playground’s main corridor, T-Street, is Blatstein’s nod to legendary down-South party strips, such as Bourbon Street in New Orleans and Beale Street in Memphis. It’s flanked by five thematically distinct bars — a deerskinned western saloon with mechanical bull, a speakeasy with clean, Art Deco lines. Each will have live music daily and food curated by chef Jose Garces.
Booking acts for The Playground has been “a little bit like driving a car in a field,” Dilworth, who also books the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, said Tuesday as workers stationed furniture at Bluey, T-Street’s Irish pub. “You can’t really hit anything. I get to go as fast as I want.”
T-Street gives way to 39 North — a 13,500-square-foot concert space that juts out over the Atlantic Ocean.
Concerts won’t be the only thing to be held at The Playground in Atlantic City this summer.
Paul Steelman, the architect who partnered with Blatstein on The Playground, said he installed glass walls to “blur the lines between the outside and the inside” and expose “some of the most gorgeous vistas in the world.”
Steelman compared the space to the great Asian “hawker streets” that formed organically and, in the process, took on their own inimitable character, such as those in Kuala Lumpur or Lan Kwai Fong, the entertainment enclave in Hong Kong.
“Some of the greatest spaces in the world are not planned by architects,” said Steelman. “That’s what used to happen in Atlantic City. ... It had this unique, home-cooking feel, and I think at the end of the day, The Playground ... will have that.”