Four Chinatown groups have united to form a committee dedicated to reviewing the conditions in Chinatown in light of the Philadelphia 76ers’ new plan to build an arena in the area.
The $1.3 billion arena, which will be built at the nearby Philadelphia Fashion District at 10th and Market Streets, is scheduled to open in 2030 after the expiration of the basketball team’s contract at Comcast’s Wells Fargo Center.
Following the announcement in July, community members in Chinatown have since voiced their opposition, citing concerns surrounding displacement, gentrification, traffic and the loss of Chinese culture in the area.
“It’s not theoretical what happens to these precious neighborhoods when large-scale developments come,” Somekawa, executive director of the Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School, told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“This whole talk about enlivening the streets is not true,” Somekawa added. “The arena wants to make profits by having people go inside and frequent the concessions they’re going to build inside the arena.”
In a statement released on Thursday, leaders of the four broad-based coalitions, which include property and restaurant owners and the executive director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, highlighted the threats posed by the new project.
Although the statement did not endorse or oppose the arena, the leaders stated that issues, including crime, unaffordable housing and lack of public spaces, will be exacerbated and “lead to the demise of Chinatown” if the arena were to be built “without intervention and involvement” of members of the neighborhood.
The leaders promised that the committee’s review “will inform our response to all proposed development projects affecting Chinatown.”
Debbie Wei, co-founder of advocacy group Asian Americans United, suggested that the Sixers fund a study that will review the impacts of the arena on the Chinatown community, adding that the team should not move forward with the project if the study deems it destructible to the area and its residents.
“Claiming that people are neutral is a total cultural misread,” Wei said. “If people aren’t telling you they want it, they’re basically saying we don’t want it, because that’s Asian culture — we’re not going to tell you to your face. If we aren’t saying yes, that means no.”
The committee has been meeting with the Sixers arena developer David Adelman and his team. Adelman, who stresses the support of business groups outside the neighborhood, has reportedly offered to negotiate a community-benefits agreement that involves business opportunities.
“No disrespect to Chinatown, but there’s multiple constituencies that benefit from this arena besides Chinatown,” Adelman said. “I think it’s a good step of economic development and job creation.”
Chinatown residents in Los Angeles expressed similar concerns regarding stadium construction in August in response to a mile-long gondola project
at Dodgers Stadium.