Developer David Adelman is confident 76 Place’s plan will succeed

Sometimes David Adelman, who wants to build a downtown arena for the 76ers, walks west on Market Street from Front Street. “You get to 5th street, even 6th, it’s awesome,” he said. “Day or night, it’s great. You arrive at the 7th and 8th, and you say to yourself: “I am elsewhere. » »

Sometimes he walks east on Market from City Hall. “You’re like, ‘That’s so cool.’ Cool neon signage. It feels like a modern city: skyscrapers, supermarkets. Bingo, next block, you’re like, ‘Oh, [bleep]Where am I?'”

For two months now, since announcing their plans to build a $1.3 billion arena at the 10th and Market, the site that used to be the Gallery, the Sixers have been pushing their plan as an imperative for the team keeps pace with the NBA arms race and as an economic boon to the region. But days before a 14-year-old boy was shot and killed near Roxborough High School, the deadly latest installment in what seems an unstoppable succession of them in the town, Adelman – the developer in partnership with Associates Sixers managers Josh Harris and David Blitzer on the draft; a close friend of Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin – who recently sold his minority stake in the franchise – framed the campaign in even harsher and more serious terms.

In his view, Philadelphia and its institutions need a renaissance, a renaissance that the city’s political leaders cannot and will not deliver, and build the arena, reshape the fashion district, and fill in what he called the “doughnut hole”, these rotting and numb centers. City blocks are essential to this urban renaissance.

“The city isn’t going to fix itself because it doesn’t have the money to fix itself, okay?” Adelman, who is 50, said last week during an interview at the Sixers headquarters in Camden. “People can talk about leadership, whether it’s the mayor or the city council or them working together. Successful administrations knew how to do business together. We don’t have that cooperation between the Council and the mayor that we used to have. So I don’t think the city is going to magically lead us to solve these problems.

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“We are the poorest big city in the country. Our education system is not great. Our schools have a billion dollars in deferred maintenance. And we have a public safety issue. It is a problem.

“That brings me to the private sector. … I learned that if I want to do something, I don’t count on anyone.

It’s a wonderful story and image: the man who makes the difference, who changes everything, by the simple power of his will and his desire. Adelman, a Penn Valley native, described visiting the fashion district in 2020 with city power broker Ronald Rubin, who years earlier had bought and developed the gallery. “I felt like I had to pay homage to him,” Adelman said. “I said to him, ‘Here’s what I think.’ He said, ‘That’s right.’ I have chills because Ronnie died six months later. The Sixers’ lease at the Wells Fargo Center with Comcast expires in 2031, and an arena under their control would open up a new source of revenue for them, and they and Adelman have promised they don’t need or use local funds. for building.

Dig one level deeper, of course, and the complications and challenges begin to surface. The Sixers say they’re not seeking public funding, for example, but if someone reaches out with an offer of help, they’re happy to accept it.

“If there’s any public funding that we’re eligible for, that would help us improve it,” said David Gould, the Sixers’ chief diversity and impact officer, “of course we’re going to be open to it – at the state and federal level, not at the city level. But it’s not like we need that for this project to move forward.

Already, however, there has been coverage, a shifting of the goalposts. The Sixers acknowledged that they would inherit a 20-year tax break on the land on which they would build the arena and that the site would spill over into the Greyhound Bus Terminal across Filbert Street. Additionally, the repurposing of the mall into an arena and a new shopping/entertainment district would require public funds to be poured into the expansion and renovation of SEPTA’s subway and regional train lines and stations. You can argue that such a project would be worth it or that the money wouldn’t technically go directly to building the arena, but no one disputes who would have to open their wallets and empty their pockets to pay for it.

Such details and obstacles sometimes seem incidental to Adelman. “SEPTA has billions of dollars they received from COVID,” he said. “They know they have an image problem at the moment. People don’t take the regional train because they don’t come to work. How do they bring people back? This project gives them the impetus to bring back SEPTA.

The suggestion that the South Philadelphia Sports Complex is more accessible to fans and patrons of suburban Philadelphia and surrounding cities by being closer to I-95 and the Schuylkill Freeway – than the suburban culture of the region is car-based and, unlike New York and northern New Jersey, not train-based – it has no problem with it. The Sixers, he said, will use geofencing to route their season ticket holders to available parking via their smartphones. In fact, he said, the spots and garages around the proposed site can accommodate the Wells Fargo Center’s 3,500 cars for the Sixers game…except a spokesperson for the Center said that 6,500 cars usually park there for the Sixers, Flyers or a concert.

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Even residents and business owners in Chinatown and other nearby neighborhoods should be reassured, Adelman and Gould said. No one will be moved. The Sixers simply take “a big box,” as Gould puts it, and replace it with a better one.

“I don’t see a place where we don’t end up with this,” Adelman said, “only because we’re so thoughtful in our engagement with the community right now. We’re not bulldozing this. We’re coming up with a serious agreement on the benefits to the community: safety, security, affordable housing. All the things that we are going to provide that are going to make a difference will help people realize that this is a real opportunity. Again, the city is not going to solve these problems.

“What we’re up against,” he added, “is a small vocal minority with a very loud voice.”

What if that voice gets louder? What happens if the next mayor or mayors do not support the plan? What if the city council did not share this vision? What if the community doesn’t trust them? What if the city says no?

“Well, what we’re not going to do is be at the Wells Fargo Center after 2031,” he said. “We have been very transparent with Comcast about this. This is not shocking news. Have I looked at a lot of sites before this one? Yes. I think it’s the best site in the country, for what it is.

Did the other sites include opportunities in New Jersey?

“No,” he said. “It’s a Philadelphia team. It’s not moving.”

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It couldn’t have been clearer. So from now until the ground is broken, if ever, David Adelman and the Sixers are warned. They officially made these tough, heady promises to the people of the town Adelman says he wants to save. Like anyone tasked with shaping much of Philadelphia’s future, they should be held to those promises every step of the way.

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