Chinatown coalition raising money for their own study of 76ers arena

Sixers arena
This conceptual rendering shows the Market Street entrance to the proposed Sixers arena in Center City.

Chinatown-based opponents of the 76ers plan to build an arena in Center City are raising money to conduct their own study of the project, saying analyses commissioned by the city are biased.

The anti-arena coalition is attempting to raise $50,000, which they said is the price of a “quality, economic study.” A GoFundMe launched late last week had raised more than $3,200 through Sunday, and organizers said the online fundraiser was one of many possible funding sources.

“We don’t have a billion dollars like the arena developers to buy studies, but we do have community and public support,” said Neeta Patel, interim executive director of Asian Americans United, in a statement. “We’re asking for the public’s help to fund studies that will give a true picture of an arena’s potential economic impact – negative or positive.”

Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration, through the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, hired consultants in July to analyze the projected community and economic impacts of the proposed arena. That work is ongoing, and results have not been submitted.

Chinatown advocates say PIDC has not asked those tasked with conducting the economic study to consider the arena’s effect on the neighborhood and small business owners. They also criticized the selection of one of the consultants and alleged the Sixers ‘bought and paid for’ the studies.

“When we raised issues of these studies’ gaps and bias with PIDC, each of our concerns and suggestions was systematically ignored, confirming our suspicions that these reports are more about justifying this arena than analyzing it,” Patel said.

PIDC required the Sixers to deposit funds into an account to cover the studies, as the Kenney administration’s position is that “developers, not city taxpayers, should foot the bill for assessing the developer’s arena proposal,” said Karen Guss, communications director for the city’s Department of Planning and Development.

“Paying into a blind pool of funds as directed has been the developers only involvement,” Guss added, in a statement. “The developers have had no role in selecting or managing the consultants and have no input into their work.”

76DevCo, a partnership between team owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer and developer David Adelman to build the arena, has guaranteed that no city funds will be used for the project, though they are open to pursuing federal and state dollars.

Guss told Metro that the scope of the community impact assessment includes looking at potential impacts on Chinatown businesses.

Sixers arena
Shown is the Fashion District shopping center and the proposed location of a new Philadelphia 76ers NBA basketball arena.AP Photo/Matt Rourke

PIDC and the Sixers referred questions about the analyses to the Kenney administration.

Though city officials initially expected the two reports to be submitted this fall, the mayor’s office is now saying that those studies should be complete before the end of the year. A third analysis, on the design of the arena, will be commissioned once 76DevCo finalizes its plans.

The proposed 18,500-seat venue, known for now as 76 Place, is expected to cost in excess of $1.5 billion. It would occupy part of the Fashion District mall, between 10th and 11th streets along East Market Street, and include an apartment tower with nearly 400 units.

76DevCo wants to open the arena in 2031. City Council approvals will be needed for the project to move forward.