The 76ers have their eyes set on building a new arena in the middle of Philadelphia. With a launch slated for the next decade, the proposed site is part of the Fashion District (former Gallery), right above SEPTA’s Jefferson Station.
The idea is for the proposed arena — presently dubbed “76 Place” — to replace a third of the existing mall. The Sixers’ new plan comes after years of searching for the right spot to land once their lease is up with the Wells Fargo Center in 2031, including a failed bid for a Delaware River waterfront location in 2020.
With the team’s announcement of the Fashion District as proposed location (it was one of three possible options on a recent, mysterious push poll) came lots of other stuff: a newly formed development corporation to lead the effort, questions about how people will get there for games, and early pushback from community members in the adjacent Chinatown neighborhood following the initial announcement.
Here’s a rundown of what we know so far about the plans for the arena, who’s behind the effort to make it happen, and how some folks think it’ll pan out.
Why do the 76ers want a new arena?
Basically, the franchise wants to be able to keep up with its peers. Wells Fargo Center has been open 26 years, making it pretty old relative to other NBA arenas, the newly formed development team says.
“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 76 Place website FAQ reads.
The team owners probably also want to be able to make money on the ancillary things owning their own arena would allow, like hosting music concerts or selling off naming rights.
Where would it be?
The proposal designates the area between 10th and 11th Streets on Market Street, a full city block currently occupied by the Fashion District, which opened in 2019 after nearly three years under construction (and even more years of planning before that).
Why did they pick that location?
First and foremost among the reasons for the choice, per a press release, is that the area is “the most transit-rich location in all of Philadelphia.”
Other reasons mentioned by the development team:
- The site is already home to existing commercial space.
- Other professional sports teams seem to have found success with their downtown arenas and stadiums.
- Being near food and drink options in Center City after games could offer a better overall experience for fans.
- The project would offer the “opportunity to play a role in the continued revitalization of Center City.”
What would need to be demolished?
The project would take up a third of the Fashion District’s footprint.
The portion of the mall that’d be demolished under the plan includes Primark, Ulta Beauty, Wonderspaces, the AMC Dine-In movie theater, Round 1 Bowling and Amusement, and several other retailers. The project won’t eliminate any residential real estate, according to the 76 Place website.
What’s the timeline on the project?
If everything pans out, the project would take nearly a decade.
Developers expect to open the arena in September 2031, in time for the 2031-2032 NBA season. Per the 76 Place website, other pieces of the timeline include:
- 2022-2024: Entitlements and approvals
- 2024-2026: Design
- 2026-2027: Demolition
- 2028-2031: Construction
Community engagement and steering committee work would take place from now through 2031, per the development site.
Who’s developing the new arena?
Sixers managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer created a separate development corporation for the project, called 76 Devcorp. The new company is chaired by local real estate developer David Adelman. Leadership from Harris Blitzer Sports Entertainment (the sports company owned by Harris and Blitzer that owns the 76ers) will also be at the helm.
Also involved with the project, per The Inquirer, are:
- San Francisco-based architecture firm Gensler
- Dallas-based construction management company AECOM Hunt
- New Jersey-based Langan Engineering
- Philly-based developer Mosaic Development Partners
76 Devcorp will also be partnering with Macerich, the company that owns and operates the Fashion District, to “reimagine” the rest of the mall as a complement to the arena, the 76 Place website says.
Who is 76 Devcorp Chair David Adelman?
Adelman is a Philly billionaire who’s founded, led, and invested in a lot of stuff.
His resume includes being CEO of Campus Apartments since the 90s and expanding the company’s reach to 18 states; co-founding Philly-headquartered private equity firm FS Investments in 2007; and co-founding cred.ai in 2017.
According to his family office website, Adelman’s personal investments have included liquor, private aviation, and professional football in the U.K. He’s also active on a lot of local boards, including as vice chair of both the University City District board and the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation board.
What is Mosaic Development Partners?
The Philly-based, Black-owned real estate development company, according to its website, was founded in 2008 by Leslie Smallwood-Lewis and Greg Reaves.
The partners tout experience managing development strategy with communities in mind — and, in the process, hiring professionals and other workers “who have been historically excluded from this industry.” One recent Mosaic project is the $7 million Golaski Labs development in Germantown, and the company is also working on an upcoming redevelopment of Cheyney University’s campus.
Equitable development and diverse hiring is being promised as a major goal for the 76 Place project, according to an NBA press release.
How much would the new arena cost to build?
The projected price tag is $1.3 billion.
Are developers planning to seek public funding?
No. Developers say the plan is to privately fund the venture, unlike the bid for a site at Penn’s Landing two years ago.
The Fashion District site does have an existing 30-year agreement for reduced property taxes, which doesn’t expire until 2035.
What kind of economic impact are backers predicting?
According to the 76 Place website, the project is expected to generate $1.9 billion in economic output and 9,000 jobs during the construction phase, plus $400 million in economic output and 1,000 jobs annually once the arena is built.
Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council business manager Ryan Boyer told The Inquirer the arena could “galvanize the construction industry in Philadelphia.”
76 Devcorp says it’s “committed to connecting these economic opportunities to residents and businesses in the surrounding neighborhoods and underrepresented communities across the city.”
What could be the impact on the surrounding neighborhood?
The proposed location is right by Chinatown, and some residents and business owners there have already voiced concerns about the potential impact of the arena on the neighborhood, according to a press release from Asian Americans United.
John Chin, executive director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp., told The Inquirer that he was excited as a Sixers fan, but that residents are likely to be “cautious” about embracing the addition to the area because of potential gentrification. “We will not allow any project to harm the preservation of our community,” he said.
Developers say they hope to work with communities near the site to keep “things like the affordability, character, and culture of the neighborhood” intact, according to the 76 Place FAQ. The website promises bilingual community engagement with residents, businesses, and organizations in Chinatown and Washington Square West, including the development of a Community Benefits Agreement.
“This agreement could result in support for programs related to promoting local business, workforce participation, neighborhood preservation, community access to the arena , affordability and other programs that would benefit local neighborhoods,” the FAQ states.
How many seats would the arena have?
18,500, which is roughly 2,000 fewer seats than at the Wells Fargo Center.
How would fans be able to get there?
Developers are suggesting fans could heavily rely on nearby public transit options. The Jefferson Station Regional Rail hub is right below the proposed arena, the Market-Frankford Line stops at 11th Street, the Broad Street Line and several SEPTA trolley lines stop a few blocks away at City Hall, and there’s a PATCO station two blocks away.
As for parking, developers say that 29 parking garages “operating with significant spare capacity” are situated within a half mile of the planned arena location — which is just a few blocks away from the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
What do the owners of the Wells Fargo Center say about the proposal?
After news of the proposed Center City site broke, Comcast Spectator — the owner of the Sixers’ current arena, where the team pays rent — quickly put out a positive-sounding statement.
Comcast Spectator said it looks forward to hosting the team in its “world-class facility” until at least 2031 (when the lease is up), and said the Wells Fargo Center will still “continue to draw the best events,” pointing to the 2026 FIFA World Cup as an example.
“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,” said the statement.
Will the Sixers stay at Wells Fargo Center for the rest of their lease?
Looks like it. Adelman and Sixers president Tad Brown told ESPN they have no plans to hurry along the development process and leave the Wells Fargo Center sooner.