For over a year, a portion of Center City Philadelphia residents who fear an interruption to neighboring Chinatown have battled against the $1.3 billion proposed construction of a new 76ers arena. While the residential criticism has remained consistent, a new revitalization effort has sparked additional scrutiny. In the beginning of August, 76 Devcorp disclosed the plan to construct next to the arena a high-rise building, which would offer multiple functions and a section for housing. Of the 395 units projected, about 20% of them would be marketed as affordable to the community.
Among the reasons for opposition, residents, predominantly from Chinatown, have alerted developers to the impact on the environment, traffic, residential displacement, and the character of the community. Although the 76ers developers have taken concerns into account, the last in-person meeting took place in December. Since then, the team has only been available to conduct virtual meetings, in which participants must pre-register. Neighbors argue that a Zoom call does not offer respect to the community, and many did not even learn from the team about the virtual meetings, but rather heard about upcoming dates from news media outlets.
Because the proposed construction will hug the Southern outskirts of Chinatown, in March of this year, a coalition against the arena distributed a survey, which found that of 230 people, 94% of Chinatown residents did not approve of the arena construction. In addition, 93% of Chinatown business owners and 95% of Chinatown visitors opposed the idea. The coalition remains strong in its conviction that the 76ers arena would lead to detrimental impacts that far outweigh the 30-year projection of a $1 billion tax revenue. The Chinatown coalition’s persistence is reminiscent of prior Center City development plans that never materialized into completed projects, including a casino and Phillies ballpark. Despite these protests, developers hope to establish the arena before the 76ers lease terminates at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia in 2031.