Update, Oct. 20: Adelman is now also a limited partner in the group that owns the Sixers, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment.
When the Sixers went public with their plan for a downtown arena, they also announced the existence of 76 Devcorp. Formed to further the effort to bring a stadium to 10th and Market streets, the new development corporation is being chaired by David J. Adelman.
Adelman is a longtime player in Philly real estate — like, starting back when he was a teenager — and he’s got a couple of connections to the 76ers.
People in the University of Pennsylvania orbit probably know him from Campus Apartments, the largest housing company catering to students. Adelman has been CEO of that company for 25 years, but his footprint is even larger.
Here’s what we know about the man who, if the project is finalized, will build what’s being called 76 Place at Market East.
Where did he get started?
Adelman, age 50, was born and raised in Penn Valley, Lower Merion. He’s a long term investor in Philly housing stock. Just how long? He started as a teenager, the story goes, back when he gave $2,000 of his bar mitzvah money to developer Alan Horwitz to invest in a property at 45th and Pine Streets.
Horwitz, a family friend who mentored the young Adelman, is the founder of Campus Apartments. The company began in the late 50s to cater to Penn students, but has expanded across the nation.
Many Philadelphians already know Horwitz, whether they realize it or not, as the 76ers Sixth Man, a floor seat fanatic who’s basically to Wells Fargo Center what Spike Lee is to Madison Square Garden, minus the directorial pedigree.
Adelman succeeded Horwitz as Campus Apartments CEO in 1997, and grew his holdings from there.
The grandson of a Holocaust survivor, he’s is a past chairman of the Philadelphia Holocaust Foundation. He’s also on several other boards, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the University City District, Penn Medicine, and the USC Shoah Foundation, per his online bios.
What holdings does he have now, and how rich is he?
Adelman has said real estate is his favorite investment, but that hasn’t stopped him from pursuing other ventures.
He’s vice chair of asset management firm FS Investments, fka Franklin Square Capital Partners, which he cofounded in 2007 and which is known for pioneering work in investing via business development companies. Adelman also founded Darco Capital, a venture capital firm that has invested in GoPuff, the 76ers Innovation Lab, and the Premier League club Crystal Palace.
Campus Apartments, where it all began and where he’s still CEO, has over $1.5 billion in assets under management across 18 states at more than 50 universities and colleges, according to its website.
Between his various holdings — the most profitable of which is reportedly FS Investments, with $25 billion in assets — Insider estimated Adelman has a personal net worth of around $1.6 billion.
What’s his role in the University City District?
Adelman helped establish the University City District, a special services district that transformed the part of West Philadelphia around Penn and Drexel. Today, he’s the vice chair of the UCD board.
On an information sheet published when the group first began in 1997, a Penn official described the UCD as a community revitalization partnership “by local property owners and other stakeholders to develop and carry out a program of cleaning, security and other services,” that “serves as an advocate for improved city services.”
In Philadelphia, business improvement districts are funded by a fee or tax on area property owners or businesses to provide services to the immediate neighborhood. Adelman was initially the district’s largest private-sector benefactor, according to a profile in Multifamily Executive magazine, contributing half a million dollars over a decade.
Twenty-five years after its founding, the UCD organizes events like the Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll, hosts pop-ups like The Porch at 30th Street, maintains a police force, runs the LUCY shuttle, and cleans up trash and litter around the neighborhood. The UCD has also been cited as a factor in the long, inexorable gentrification of the area.
Speaking in a video celebrating the UCD’s 20th anniversary, Adelman said “we’ve gotten to a point where we can really focus on the positive” in West Philly, boosting the district’s impact on the city.
That one time he was taken to court
Penn students have had qualms with the management of Campus Apartments over the years, as reported by The Daily Pennsylvanian, alleging lax maintenance and other complaints.
In 2013, six students filed suit over a Penn-owned property that Campus Apartments managed. They cited “utterly reprehensible conditions,” including mold, rodents and a bathroom ceiling collapse, which Campus Apartments originally claimed was the tenant’s fault, the result of a faulty toilet.
The case ended in an undisclosed settlement.
What is Adelman’s role at 76 Devcorp?
He’s basically running point on getting the Center City arena built.
When Sixers managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer announced their plan to locate 76 Place atop a block of Fashion District Philadelphia, they said Adelman was being given “a mandate to locate, design and develop a destination that serves as a world-class arena facility.”
Adelman will work on the project with Mosaic Development Partners, a local, Black-owned firm. He has expressed the importance of “aggressive diversity hiring targets,” and said “there is no better place to build an arena in Philadelphia than in Center City,” praising transit access to the location and surrounding businesses that would benefit.
Some community members in Chinatown, located next to the proposed site, are skeptical of these promises. They fear the arena could bring increased traffic congestion and spike property values.
“We view the 76ers’ proposed arena a block away from our beloved neighborhood as a threat to the continued existence of Chinatown,” wrote Debbie Wei, founder of Asian Americans United, in WHYY’s PlanPhilly. “What the 76ers, Adelman, and the billionaires and city officials who came before them fail to recognize is that Chinatown will fight for its survival.”
Adelman told The Inquirer the Sixers’ arena “will not displace one business or resident” in Chinatown. He also said the recent expansion of the project to include the Greyhound Bus Terminal site on Filbert Street could actually reduce traffic in the neighborhood.
“I think now that we have had the grand unveiling, we now need to show people we are for real,” Adelman told Forbes about the 76 Place project. He has vowed it will not take any public subsidies.
After starting engagement and design, demolition is projected to start in 2026, with construction following in 2028 to open an arena in September 2031.