The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp., a major business leadership group, on Thursday announced its formal opposition to the construction of a $1.3 billion Sixers arena on the south end of the neighborhood.
The decision registered strong opposition from a deep-rooted, nearly 60-year-old community development organization that many initially thought might accept the proposal.
“The arena deeply threatens the future of Chinatown,” the PCDC said in a statement.
“It is disappointing with Market East in the midst of an economic downturn and after our attempts to work with PCDC that they would come to this decision without seeing our formal proposal,” the team’s development partnership, 76 Devcorp, said in a statement . “We remain committed to developing this project in a way that protects the city we love and benefits all of Philadelphia.”
That venture, 76 Devcorp, is a partnership between Sixers managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer and Philadelphia developer and team part-owner David Adelman.
The statement reiterated that the team’s proposal includes a $50 million public benefits agreement with Chinatown and said that in recent weeks more people and organizations, including a major labor union, have come out in favor of the proposal. The team says the project will be privately funded.
The team recently pushed its own deadline to get city government approvals from June to fall of this year.
“The arena deeply threatens the future of Chinatown.”
The PCDC said its research found overwhelming opposition to the project, contradicting the team’s claim that many people in the neighborhood are quietly open and willing to hear more information. The PCDC found that 93% of business owners, 94% of residents and 95% of visitors opposed the arena.
The announcement “reinforces that PCDC is an advocate for Chinatown, we always have been and always will be,” said agency executive director John Chin, who added that the agency has done a good job of communicating its position and working around the plans for the arena.
The PCDC’s announcement comes as yet another advocacy group, this one made up of restaurant owners around the city, is organizing against the team’s proposal, which would put a new home for the Sixers at 10th and Market Streets in Center City.
The team described the project as a huge win for the city, saying a downtown arena would move Philadelphia into the future while spurring foot traffic, business and spending on a stomped stretch of the corridor that runs from City Hall to Independence Mall. The Sixers are unhappy at the Wells Fargo Center, in South Philadelphia, where they have played since 1996.
The Sixers are tenants in that building, which is owned by Comcast Spectacor, which also owns the Flyers. Owning their own home arena would allow the Sixers to set their own schedule, dictate the use of the space, and capture nearly all of the costs that occur in and around major sports arenas.
The PCDC said its coalition of community organizations collected more than 230 accessible language surveys and held three meetings with business owners in Chinatown. Respondents’ main concerns were that an arena would worsen Chinatown’s culture, create congestion and parking problems, and drive people out due to rising rents.
In its announcement, the PCDC cited the construction of what is now Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., built around the same time as the Wells Fargo Center, as contributing to the demise of the city’s Chinatown.
“We will not allow Philadelphia’s Chinatown to be another one of these tragic stories,” the PCDC said.
The Sixers say many people in Chinatown, the heart of the region’s Asian community and the neighborhood that would be most affected by an arena, are ready to hear more about the plans. This view contrasts with the “No Arena” posters plastered around Chinatown and the anger and questions raised at several public events and meetings.
In December, more than 200 people booed, shouted and booed a 76ers representative during a public meeting at an Ocean Harbor restaurant.
» READ MORE: Chinatown residents loudly denounce Sixers’ arena proposal at contentious meeting
“Universal opposition,” said Amanda Chan, whose family has lived in Chinatown for 60 years. “They don’t see any value in it.”
A new opposition group recently emerged, RICE, the Restaurant Industry for the Existence of Chinatown, a coalition of about two dozen eateries across the city.
He joins the Chinatown Coalition to Oppose the Arena, Save Chinatown, Solidarity No Arena in Chinatown, and Students to Save Chinatown, which includes students from the University of Pennsylvania and Bryn Mawr College.
The PCDC was established in 1966 to preserve and promote Chinatown as a viable ethnic, residential and business enclave.
This month, the PCDC joined with Philadelphia city officials to announce that planning money has been secured for the Chinatown Stitch, a massive project that will reconnect the north and south sides of the neighborhood by physically closing the Vine Street Underground Expressway.
In 2019, PCDC opened the $75 million, twenty-story Crane Chinatown Community Center at 10th and Vine Streets, providing the neighborhood with the space and amenities it needs. It has fought, not always successfully, to provide more affordable housing in the lower-income neighborhood.
PCDC directly serves more than 2,000 clients annually in neighborhood planning and community advocacy.
This is a developing story and will be updated.