HomeCommunity IssuesCommunity voices distrust ahead of 76er arena study release

Community voices distrust ahead of 76er arena study release

By Yunfei Liu

On its website, 76 Place, the $1.55 billion arena proposed by the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, paints a rosy picture in blue and red: It promises to create 12,200 jobs during the construction, generate $2.3 billion in economic impact, and foster over 700 retail businesses at the heart of Philadelphia.

But their neighbors – communities in Philadelphia Chinatown –are skeptical about these numbers.

The city of Philadelphia agreed to a study about the actual impact of 76er arena which is yet to be released. Various groups, including Asian American United, professor from the University of Pennsylvania, and local businesses representatives, convened at a church to voice their concerns about this study.

After nearly two years of fervent resistance to the proposed arena, opponents have low trust in the  forthcoming report. They fear it will exaggerate the benefits of the arena while downplaying its costs and overlooking its adverse effects on local businesses, especially in Chinatown.

“Paid consultants promise big, and arenas under-deliver by about 80%.” Rashida Ng, the Chair of Undergraduate Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, said during the news conference.

She cited the example of Capital One Arena in Washington DC, which yielded only $30 million annually instead of the projected $152 million, at the cost of their historic Chinatown and displacing 90% of residents.

The cost of 76er arena construction could be as large, according to a study conducted by Arthur Acolin, an Assistant Professor at the College of Built Environments in the University of Washington. He said the city of Philadelphia will lose $1 billion in tax revenue, due to the reduction of local small business, especially food and entertainment. The revenue generated by the 76er arena can barely offset the cost.

AsAmNews hasn’t heard back from 76 Place or its construction partner. In its latest press release on March 7, it announced revisions to its floor plans, in order to better serve pedestrian access and traffic flow. 

However, these changes fall short of addressing the core concerns of opponents: the preservation of Chinatown and the gentrification process in the area.

“You cannot offer ‘community benefits’ that will pay for our history, our culture, our relationships, our home,” Steven Chu, President of the Chinese Restaurant Association of Greater Philadelphia, said at the event in both English and Mandarin. “After 150 years, we have earned our right to be here…We are one of the oldest neighborhoods in this city.”

In 2023, the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed Philadelphia Chinatown as one of the 11 endangered historic places, citing threats from local redevelopment exacerbating gentrification, displacement, traffic congestion, and increased living costs.

Vivian Chang, the  Executive Director of Asian American United, said their plan is to engage more communities in the city, amplifying narratives from those affected and raising public awareness.

“We pushed them back there for almost two years,” Chang said. “That’s already a really good sign, because what they wanted was to just bulldoze the community, get it done, push us over.”

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


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