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August 11, 2023

76ers to hold virtual public meetings on arena proposal

Five Zoom calls are planned in the coming weeks, including two for Mandarin and Cantonese speakers. Reservations are required to participate

Development Sixers
76ers Arena Public Meetings Provided Image/Gensler

The Philadelphia 76ers will hold public meetings on Zoom this month to discuss the team's proposed arena in Center City.

The 76ers plan to hold five public meetings this month on their proposed East Market Street arena, a project that would replace a portion of the Fashion District Philadelphia mall just south of Chinatown.

Participants will need to register in advance online, the Sixers said. The schedule is as follows:

• Tuesday, Aug. 15, 6-8 p.m.
• Thursday, Aug. 17, 6-8 p.m.
• Tuesday, Aug. 22, 6-8 p.m. (Mandarin-language meeting)
• Tuesday, Aug. 29, 6-8 p.m. (Cantonese-language meeting)
• Thursday, Aug 31, 6-8 p.m.

During each of the meetings, the Sixers will provide an overview of the project. Community members will be able to submit questions for the team's developers to answer during a Q&A session. All of the meetings will be recorded and available to view online once they are finished.

The 76ers said they soon will announce plans for in-person meetings about the arena.

The Chinatown coalition opposed to the 76ers arena expressed skepticism about the meetings and reiterated its view that the project has minimal public support. 

"Philadelphia has shown overwhelming opposition to 76Place and the developers have systematically ignored it all," said Neeta Patel, interim executive director of Asian Americans United. "(Team owners David) Adelman, (Josh) Harris and (David) Blitzer are interested in building their arena, not in good faith dialogue with the community. That's why they've spent a year sneaking around and deceiving the public, and why the community found out about these meetings from reporters, not the 76Place team. It's a pattern of untrustworthy actions."

The $1.3 billion proposal calls for an arena on Market Street between 10th and 11th streets, extending up to Cuthbert Street along the southern border of Chinatown. Earlier this week, the 76ers unveiled plans to add a 20-story residential tower to the project, including some units they say will be designated as affordable housing. 

The plan also was revised to elevate the arena's event floor above street level, creating a public promenade. The team has pledged to privately finance the project, which it claims will generate $1 billion in tax revenue for the city over the next 30 years.

The 76ers last held a public meeting in May with the Washington Square West Civic Association, another virtual event. The team's last in-person meeting took place in Chinatown last December, about five months after the arena proposal was unveiled. That meeting led to tense exchanges between community members and the team's developers. Since then, the 76ers said they have held dozens of small, private meetings with various stakeholders, including those in Chinatown.

Community concerns about the project include fears about traffic congestion, environmental impacts, residential displacement and preserving the character of Chinatown. The community has defeated large development proposals in the past, including a Phillies ballpark and a casino project.

The Chinatown coalition against the arena says there is little public approval for the project, pointing to a survey conducted earlier this year by the nonprofit Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp., a longtime advocate for affordable housing and the cultural and economic development of the neighborhood's commercial corridor. The March survey of 230 people found that 93% of Chinatown business owners, 94% of residents and 95% of Chinatown visitors who responded were opposed the arena.

The coalition also noted thousands of people have signed a petition, written postcards to City Council and marched in Center City to fight against the arena in recent months. 

The city is conducting three studies on the community, economic and design impacts of building a new arena in Center City. The city also is working with the surrounding community on the Chinatown Stitch project, which explores the possibility of capping the Vine Street Expressway to reconnect sections of Chinatown that were carved apart by the construction of the interstate highway in the 1980s. A cap over I-676 could be in the form of a bridge, platform or another structure that would create the potential for future parks, commercial space and residential projects.

The 76ers hope to gain approval for the arena project by the end of this year, with a goal of demolishing the existing mall building in 2026 and completing the arena development by 2031, when the team's lease expires at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia.