Philadelphia to study impact of Sixers' proposed $1.3B Center City arena

The city of Philadelphia said Wednesday it will conduct an independent evaluation of the Philadelphia 76ers’ proposed Center City arena, a hot-button development project that’s been closely watched since being unveiled last summer.

The $1.3 billion arena is proposed at the site of the Fashion District on Market Street between 10th and 11th streets. The Sixers need city approval before moving ahead with the project.

The city’s study is planned to evaluate building design, community impact, urban planning, economic impact and parking and traffic impact. 

Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., the city’s lead economic development agency, will oversee the due diligence on the proposal. PIDC issued a request for proposals from firms to evaluate the impact of the Sixers’ proposal.

“Please note the ability to provide timely support and teams that show meaningful commitment to diversity will be critical for the successful respondent(s), in addition to demonstrated subject matter expertise,” PIDC’s request for proposals says.

The deadline for proposals is April 28. The Sixers originally planned to receive city approval for the arena by June, but 76 Devcorp Chairman David Adelman said it’s likely that wouldn’t happen until the fall.

Given the size and scope of the project, it’s likely that the city would need to pass a package of ordinances for the project to move forward.

“We want to emphasize the importance of the evaluations and cannot move forward until that work is completed,” said Karen Guss, a spokesperson for the city’s planning and development department, in an email.

It’s unclear how the study may impact the timeline 76 Devcorp has set out to receive needed ordinances, though the fall could be the earliest that the study is completed.

“We recognize and appreciate that the 76ers proposal has generated significant attention across the city,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “While it’s an exciting opportunity, we must understand the impact it may have on the surrounding communities before any plans move forward.”

A spokesperson for 76 Devcorp, the Sixers’ development team, said “the organization is fully supportive of the analysis and looks forward to collaborating with city leadership.”

The proposal has received pushback from Chinatown residents and community members concerned about the arena’s impacts. It’s also received support from builders unions.

“We are glad to see the city taking steps to perform necessary due diligence on this project and get a full picture of how an arena would impact Chinatown, surrounding neighborhoods, and Philly as a whole,” said Neeta Patel, interim executive director of Asian Americans United, in a statement.

The Sixers estimate the arena would create 9,000 construction jobs as well as $400 million of economic output and 1,000 jobs annually once built.

“Given the size and scope of this proposed project, it is too early in the process to know the specific impacts of the proposed downtown arena,” Kenney said. “That is why over the coming months, several city and public agency partners, as well as third party consultants will complete various technical studies to ascertain the feasibility and impacts of an arena in the proposed location.”

The 76ers’ lease at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia, owned by Flyers parent Comcast Spectacor, ends in 2031, which is when the arena would open in Center City.

The 76ers have an agreement with Macerich (NYSE: MAC), the Fashion District’s controlling owner, to buy the portion of the mall that would become the arena and become partners on the remaining section of the mall.

Comcast Spectacor’s new CEO Dan Hilferty has told various news outlets during the past few days that he would like to see the Sixers change their mind and stay at Wells Fargo Center — perhaps with an equity stake in the venue, and as a partner in a potential transformation of the entire South Philadelphia sports complex.

Adelman took to Twitter to respond to Hilferty’s comments:

It’s okay for friends to disagree. Our plans remain unchanged but I appreciate that Dan and his team are taking this opportunity to potentially reimagine the area around the WFC. Our city could benefit from other companies making private investments and big bets on the future of Philadelphia. Eight of top 12 DMAs have two arenas. More events, more concerts, more vibrancy. Also more tax dollars for schools and city services.


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