Philadelphia’s Chinatown organizes against 76 Place, and not for the first time

Philadelphia's Chinatown
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Philadelphia’s Chinatown, at over 150 years old, has a rich history resisting development projects. From decades of highway expansion projects, to a proposed prison next door to Holy Redeemer Church and School, to a casino, Chinatown residents have long fought for the preservation of their community. 

The Chinatown community and many of its allies oppose the building and development of a new $1.3 billion plan to build a basketball arena for the Philadelphia 76ers a block from Chinatown’s southern boundary on Arch Street, called 76 Place. 

76ers arena
This conceptual rendering shows the Market Street entrance to the proposed Sixers arena in Center City.Gensler

For Metro Philadelphia’s 2024 AAPI Power Players list, many honorees talked about how the proposed stadium encroaches on their community, a community which has already spent too much time defending itself from predatory development. When asked about what policymakers can do to support the AAPI community in the short-term and long-term, Wei Chen, the civic engagement director at Asian Americans United, said, “No arena – Save my community from the 76 Place arena. Chinatown deserves to live!”

Jasper Liem, the executive director at Attic Youth Center, said, “Listen to our communities and help us preserve Philly’s Chinatown, one of the oldest in our country where roughly 50 Chinatowns remain. Check inwards on what you’ve been taught about AAPI people and actively work to unlearn that bias. Examine the “model minority” concept and ask who created that model and who does that model serve.”.

Mary Zhou, an artist and communications manager at Painted Bride, said, “Save Chinatown and oppose the construction scheme for the new 76ers arena.”

76 Place is not the first stadium proposed for development in Chinatown. In 2000, plans were underway to build a new home for the Phillies: a 15-acre, 44,000-seat ballpark, built over 10 blocks at 12th and Vine streets. The community rallied, and in large-part thanks to an intergenerational resistance effort by the Chinatown community, the Phillies stadium project moved to South Philly.

76ers arena
This conceptual rendering of the proposed Sixers arena shows 10th and Market streets.Gensler

Over a year ago John Chin, executive director of Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC), said, “The arena deeply imperils the future of Chinatown.” PCDC’s top concerns: the deterioration of Chinatown culture, parking and traffic congestion, and increasing rent and housing displacement.

Many of the 2024 AAPI Power Players have been long involved in justice efforts and community organizing in Chinatown. 76 Place is only the latest project in a century’s worth of developments to threaten the community’s long-term vitality. 

Read more about the honorees, here.