Chinatown residents and organizers are surprised and confused by the Philadelphia 76ers’ announcement on Thursday to build a $1.3 billion arena a block from the community’s archway.
Wei Chen, the community engagement director for Asian Americans United, told The Washington Post that she wants visitors to see residents chatting in Mandarin or vendors selling traditional Chinese food through the archway, not an arena.
NBC Sports reports that it is planned for the arena to be built by 2031.
“These apartments are full of people who are low-income, who are elderly people, and people who are new immigrants,” said Chen, the community engagement director for Asian Americans United. “You have to think about how Chinatown was created. We weren’t welcome in other neighborhoods.”
According to Chen, no one reached out to the Chinatown community or residents for input before the announcement.
A statement was made by the spokesman 76 Devcorp, the development company of the arena, addressing the community’s concerns.
“We are very sensitive to the Chinatown community’s concern in light of prior Center City proposals and are committed to listening to and working with the community in a way that hasn’t happened before,” the statement said.
This is not the only struggle that the community in Philadelphia Chinatown faced. Chinatown restaurants were shut down for dine-in during the COVID-19 pandemic and business was lost. While the community is now bouncing back, the arena proposal is another issue they are facing.
“This is an ongoing struggle for Chinatowns and other downtown communities of color and of low income,” said historian John Kuo Wei Tchen, director of Rutgers University’s Clement Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience to The Washington Post. “In the case of Chinatowns that play important symbolic roles for the cosmopolitan claims of the city, sport authority interests often trump such roles.”
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