Explainer: What’s the status of the proposed 76ers arena in Center City?

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

Plans for a 76ers arena on the edge of Chinatown emerged more than a year ago, and ever since, has sparked fierce debate among Philadelphians.

Now, a series of community meetings are scheduled over the next few weeks, after the company behind the contested plan updated its proposal last week.

The team is set to begin a “broader engagement process” in the coming weeks, said David Gould, the Sixers’ chief diversity and impact officer, in a statement Thursday.

A coalition of Chinatown-based groups has formed to fight the project in an attempt to preserve a neighborhood that has long been targeted for large-scale development.

Opponents point to similar stadium projects where benefits promised to neighboring communities have not materialized. They have also highlighted that the Sixers practice facility in Camden, constructed in 2016 with tens of millions of dollars in state tax breaks, employs few locals.

Unlike the stadiums currently standing at the South Philadelphia sports complex, the $1.3 billion arena would come at no cost to city taxpayers, according to 76 DevCo, the partnership between Sixers ownership and local developer David Adelman that is behind the project.

Proponents argue the 18,500-seat facility could rejuvenate East Market Street. The arena, known for now as 76 Place, would occupy part of the Fashion District mall, between 10th and 11th streets. 76 DevCo wants to open the arena in 2031.

Design updates

76 DevCo published new renderings last week and said the development will now include a nearly 400-unit, $250 million apartment tower that will sit on top of a section of the arena.

The team promised that 20% of the building, or about 80 units, would be designated as affordable housing – which typically means rent is capped at 30% of income for lower-income tenants.

Representatives from the team said the addition of housing – and, in particular, affordable units – was a response to community feedback.

“Our community needs and welcomes housing development that is affordable and invests in local residents and businesses — and doesn’t come with strings or arenas attached,” said Neeta Patel, interim executive director of Asian Americans United, one of the organizations that opposes the project.

This conceptual rendering shows an apartment tower next to the proposed arena.Gensler

In another alteration, in an attempt to address to concerns about the arena’s impact on SEPTA’s Jefferson Station, the team said the event floor would be raised a story above street level.

The renderings are conceptual – not a concrete design – meaning additional changes are likely, Sixers officials said.

Community meetings

Beginning Tuesday and running through the end of the month, there will be five Zoom meetings, during which residents will hear details about the arena and be able to submit questions and comments, according to 76 DevCo.

The sessions will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 15, Aug. 17, Aug. 22 (in Mandarin), Aug. 29 (in Cantonese) and Aug. 31. Presentations at all of the meetings will be identical, team representatives said.

Registration is required, and the public can sign up at 76place.com. More virtual and in-person meetings will be held in the future, officials said.

Chinatown leaders said that the community has already spoken. A Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation survey of 230 people in the neighborhood found that 93% of business owners and 94% of residents are against the arena.

“It is clear that 76Place does not have the community’s support,” Patel said Thursday.

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

What is the city doing?

Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration is awaiting the findings of a community impact assessment and economic analysis after hiring consultants for those studies last month. A design analysis will be completed once 76 Place finalizes its plans.

The consultants have begun working on the project, and reports about the arena’s impact are expected to be issued in the fall, city officials said. City Hall approvals will be needed for the project to move forward.

“It is important to note that any final report(s) will not lay out recommendations, but will assess impacts of the potential scenarios either with — or without — an arena,” a Mayor’s Office spokesperson said in a statement.

76 DevCo is funding the studies, through a pot of money it allocated to the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation. The arrangement raised some eyebrows, though the Kenney administration has said the team had no involvement in selecting the consultants.

The arena will create an estimated $800 million in tax revenue for the city and $200 million for the School District of Philadelphia over 30 years, team officials said late last month. The Sixers also plan to transfer ownership of the arena to the city, which will allow for greater oversight, according to the developers.