In July 2022, Philadelphia’s Chinatown received some news that could disrupt its way of life, culture, and work.
The managing partners of the Philadelphia 76ers, Josh Harris and David Blitzer, announced the creation of 76 Devcorp, a new company in charge of building a proposed arena for the Philadelphia 76ers. The company’s plans showed the building taking up a city block from 10th Street to 11th Street, neighboring Chinatown. The 76ers’ current arena is the Wells Fargo Center located at the southwest corner of the South Philadelphia Sports Complex.
When I first read about the plans of the future 76ers arena, I was filled with confusion, anger, and disagreement. All I could think about was what would happen to Chinatown and the longstanding culture within the community?
Disruption and defiance
Leading the development of the future arena is Philadelphia business leader David Adelman, in partnership with Harris Blitzer Sports Entertainment. They also plan to partner with Macerich, the managing partner and operator of the Fashion District Philadelphia.
According to CBS News, Tom O’Hern, CEO of Macerich, released a statement regarding his company’s decision on partnering with 76 Devcorp:
“At Macerich, we are constantly enhancing our properties to bring greater value to our shareholders, retailers, and communities. The decision to repurpose part of Fashion District Philadelphia to include the new 76ers arena is a natural evolution of the site and a unique and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our company. We are committed to working collaboratively with 76 Devcorp to bring to life the vision of this iconic development that will ensure Philadelphia’s vibrancy for generations to come.”
These companies are focused on development and although the plan is to build the arena near Chinatown, they don’t seem to realize the effect it will have on the area.
One major effect will be traffic problems. Chinatown is very small with little parking. Game nights will flood the area with nonstop traffic and out-of-control sports fans.
According to the China-United States Exchange Foundation, over 50 cities currently have their own Chinatown districts. The most important aspect of Chinatown is the representation of culture from different Asian countries. Restaurants, marketplaces, attractions, shops, and small stands in the area teach and offer the experience of Asian-American life and culture.
Many friends and families go and explore Chinatown during the weekdays and weekends. Most of the time, it is used as a tourist spot for people visiting Philadelphia. As for myself, my family loves going there to celebrate birthdays and special occasions.
Benefits of the arena for everyone?
On March 3, 2023, 76 Devcorp tweeted:
“Market East, make our city safer, and work with community groups to invest in underserved communities.” Let’s be clear: 76 Place will benefit ALL Philadelphians. We’ll improve transit, create thousands of union jobs, revitalize.”
They claim the new arena will be beneficial for everyone. But is that really true?
Chinatown community takes a stand
Many Asian-American businesses, churches, and non-profit organizations have been furious about the proposal. They have gathered people to help take a stand and created the hashtag, #NoArenaInChinatown.
All over the walls and doors of restaurants in Chinatown are signs reading “No Arena in Chinatown.” Many people also wear t-shirts with the slogan during daily protests.
As an Asian American person, I understand the feeling when my culture, and especially my community is being disrespected. To be in a place where not many people understand Asian- Americans is not a great feeling. So, I take a stand with everyone else on the Chinatown arena proposal. Our voices need to be heard and we deserve to live in a place that is respected by others around us.