Philadelphia 76ers propose move to new Center City arena at Fashion District, called '76 Place'

The team's lease at the Wells Fargo Center is up in 2031.

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Friday, July 22, 2022
What we know about possible 76ers' Center City arena
The Philadelphia 76ers are proposing building a brand-new arena in Center City: 76 Place.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Philadelphia 76ers are proposing building a brand-new arena in Center City, moving it from South Philadelphia to the Fashion District.

It would be called 76 Place at Market East. The team launched a website Thursday explaining the proposal.

The team's lease at the Wells Fargo Center is up in 2031.

"Wells Fargo Center is currently one of the oldest NBA arenas and by the time our lease expires in 2031, it will be 35 years old. Considering most arenas only remain in service for 30-40 years, the current location is not conducive to our vision of building a championship-level franchise for decades to come," the organizers say.

"While we are thankful for the recent renovations made by Comcast Spectacor to improve the fan experience, these are typical for arenas that are 20 years old and will not significantly extend the life of the building."

This location would be on Market Street between 10th and 11th street. They would have to demolish a block of the Fashion District Mall, formerly The Gallery, to make that happen.

The arena is being developed by 76 Devcorp, a partnership between 76ers managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer and real estate developer and investor David Adelman.

In addition, 76 Devcorp is collaborating with Mosaic Development Partners, a Philadelphia-based real estate development company certified MBE (Minority Business Enterprise).

The developers say the idea is "inspired by the success of downtown arenas in other cities," like Madison Square Garden in New York City.

"Quite simply put, there is no better place to build an arena in Philadelphia than in Center City, with its robust public transit infrastructure and existing dynamic businesses eager to serve fans and visitors alike. 76 Devcorp is inspired by many successful sports and entertainment arenas built in dense urban centers that promote integration with the surrounding communities. We're dedicated to making sure this development is a win for our fans and Philadelphia atlarge," Adelman said in a press release.

The effort would be privately funded and is anticipated to cost $1.3 billion.

"We are not seeking any funding from the City of Philadelphia," the developers say.

A message on the 76 Place website reads:

"The 76ers are ready to bring a new, championship caliber arena back to the heart of Philadelphia. 76 Place is proposed as the new home of the Philadelphia 76ers, where we will build a new arena that is privately funded and developed in collaboration with the community. We are committed to working with local stakeholders to ensure the project supports the surrounding neighborhoods and promotes economic opportunity, inclusivity and accessibility."

The 76ers say the project would be a "major economic driver for Philadelphians, creating jobs and contract opportunities during construction and after opening."

According to the project team, the construction would create $1.9 billion of economic output and 9,000 jobs. The arena would bring $400 million of economic output annually and 1,000 jobs.

Construction is anticipated to start in 2027, they say, with completion in time for the 2031-2032 NBA Season.

The team behind the arena is looking for public input. They say a Community Benefits Agreement will be developed to "address community concerns and advance key neighborhood priorities."

Some residents are mixed about the plan.

"I dont think they should demolish this," said Shariff Yarborgh of South Philadelphia. "I like the Fashion District."

"To have a stadium in Center City might be actually a better thing," said Michael Fielding of Southwest Philadelphia. "It actually might bring more venues to Philadelphia."

The developers say Philadelphia was once home to two arenas - the Wells Fargo Center and the Spectrum - and are confident the city can support two arenas again.

As for questions about parking, the developers say they envision this location would rely on public transit. However, for those who would drive to the games, they say the arena would be in a mile radius of 29 parking garages.

Organizers say this project will not eliminate any residential homes or displace existing residents. They say they are aware of how past development efforts in Chinatown were opposed.

"The team is aware of those efforts and the threats they posed for the community, which is why this project is being approached differently. We are proposing to replace one entertainment complex with another, and will not displace any residents in Chinatown," the developers say.

While not all of Chinatown is opposed, some business owners still argue the venue will push people out of their homes.

"Traffic is just one of the concerns, and the other concern is about the parking space," said Wei Chen, the civic engagement director with Asian Americans United. "Chinatown is not a business area, we need parking 24 hours."

David Gould, 76ers chief diversity and impact officer said, "Our pledge is to advance equitable, community-driven revitalization through this project and to ensure the arena is a win for fans, Philadelphia and the surrounding communities. We look forward to listening to and working with the local community, including local organizations, businesses and residents, especially in Chinatown and Washington Square West, to develop a Community Benefits Agreement that results in long-term positive impact."

The venue would go in Councilman Mark Squilla's district. He calls the prospect exciting but wants to explore its impact on local communities.

Action News asked Councilman Squilla if his support of the venue would be affected if Asian community leaders would not support it.

"Well obviously if the community doesn't want it and there's big pushback from it, I don't think it will have the ability to move forward," said Squilla. "The community is a big part of this process."

Developers plan to work with the owners of the Fashion District to reimagine the remaining 2/3 of the mall as an entertainment hub to complement the arena.

Comcast Spectacor released this statement in response to the 76ers' proposal:

"We've had a terrific partnership with the Sixers for decades and look forward to hosting the team in this world-class facility until at least 2031. We've invested hundreds of millions alongside the City, Phillies, and Eagles to make the South Philadelphia Stadium District an incredible destination for sports, entertainment and our passionate fans. We think it rivals any in the nation and will continue to draw the best events -- the 2026 FIFA World Cup is a perfect example."

Paul Levy, president of the Center City District, issued this statement:

"A Sixers arena on the north side of 1000 block of Market Street can help continue the revitalization of Market East, acting as a significant stimulus for even more economic development and job creation on a street that still has several major undeveloped parcels. Situated immediately atop SEPTA's Regional Rail station and Market-Frankford Line, and with direct connections to PATCO, visitors will have the ability to arrive at the arena without taking their cars. While there will surely be many amenities within the arena, this can also prompt new demand for nearby restaurants, retail and hotels, expanding on the vitality created by the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Clearly there are many issues to be worked out with neighbors and to develop plans for crowd management, but they have the benefit of nearly a decade to accomplish those important tasks."

The City of Philadelphia issued this statement:

"We share the 76ers commitment to finding a long-term home in Philadelphia and look forward to working closely with them to make sure the development maximizes benefit to the City and its residents in an equitable and sustainable manner. It was exciting to hear the proposal for Fashion District Philadelphia as we believe it is an ideal site for a world class sports and entertainment arena. FDP offers our community a transit-rich location and an incredible opportunity to revitalize Center City, ensuring its vibrancy for generations to come. We're looking forward to the development corporation, led by native Philadelphian David Adelman, leading a thoughtful engagement process, in collaboration with the community, that results in the best proposal - one that our entire City can get behind."