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Philadelphia’s Chinatown puts full-court press on 76ers arena at Fashion District

Al Urbanski
76ers-arena-market street
The NBA’s 76ers won’t play their first game at this Market Street arena until the 2031-2032 season.

Macerich’s opportunity to snag the best mall anchor ever is getting pushback from community groups in Philadelphia.

Chants of “no arena in the heart of our city” and “hands off Chinatown” rang from a boisterous crowd of protesters who marched through Center City last weekend in an effort to thwart the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers' construction of a new $1.3 billion arena in a portion of the Fashion District mall on Market Street.

Organizers claimed there were 3,000 marchers at the event, though the Philadelphia Police Department estimated the crowd at around 700.

Nonetheless, speakers at the event were adamant that the new facility would threaten the life and culture of the city’s neighboring Chinatown, which has existed for more than 150 years.

“This is a land grab,” said Steven Zhu, president of the Chinese Restaurant Association of Greater Philadelphia, though Fashion District has been in business on the site since 2019.

“We know the billionaire developers’ interest is in taking our land and erasing our community,” said Zhu. “Billionaires think they can buy anything they want. But they will not buy our community or the people of Philadelphia.”

Mohan Seshadri, executive director of the Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance claimed that the project would decimate Chinatown.

“This project would create traffic and parking nightmares, and significantly worsen public safety because the building would be empty more than two thirds of the year,” he said.

76ers managing partner Josh Harris contends that making the team’s home in a Center City neighborhood that has been rundown and under-used for decades will only boost local communities.

“The Philadelphia 76ers are a storied Philadelphia institution with a proven track record of investing in their community” Harris said when the project was announced. “That’s why we’re committed to building a world-class home in the heart of the city and creating a privately-funded arena that strengthens ties within the local community through investments that prioritize equity, inclusivity and accessibility.”

David Adelman, a Philadelphia real estate wunderkind who began investing in real estate at age 13 with some of his Bar Mitzvah money, got the idea to place the Sixers in Center City and heads 76 Devcorp, the developer of the project.

“The chosen location is a key step in the process of developing a destination that provides Center City and surrounding communities with an economic engine generating activity through 76ers and youth games, concerts, events and more,” Adelman said.

The groundbreaking for the new arena is several years off. The 76ers intend to open on Market Street in the 2031-2032 season after their lease expires at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philly.

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