Public Service Announcement: The New Sixers Arena is Not Being Built in Chinatown

Sixers image

There’s been a lot of talk about the new Sixers arena, 76 Place, which is scheduled for construction in 2028. We’ve got a long way to go, as developers currently navigate an “entitlements and approvals” phase that involves feedback from the Chinatown community and other groups.

As such, you’ll see a lot of tweets like this one:

Okay so here’s the deal –

The Sixers’ new arena is planned for the plot of land between Market, Filbert, 10th, and 11th streets. It’s a chunk of what now comprises “The Fashion District,” which is hilarious. LA and New York have a fashion district. Philly has Kate Spade and Lids, so this is more or less the Sanatoga Outlets.

But anyway, most people call this area “Market East” and/or “The Gallery.” Nobody calls this portion of Philadelphia Chinatown, because it’s not. Chinatown’s southern border is typically recognized as Arch and the northern border is Vine. Yes, the Sixers plan to help relocate the Greyhound terminal on Filbert, which was slated to be moved anyway, but I’ve never heard anybody call Filbert Chinatown proper. If you’re going north from Market, you have to pass Filbert and Cuthbert before you get to the Friendship Arch and corner where the Trocadero used to be.

I have marked the borders on the image below. You can see here how there’s a back portion of the arena extending past Filbert, where the bus terminal currently sits, but the arena itself faces towards Market and there’s nothing beyond Arch and extending into Chinatown proper:

Of course, this is not to dismiss or downplay any gripes Chinatown residents may have about the arena. It’s going to be built right next door to them. There will be several thousand people showing up for basketball games at this nearby complex about 50 times per year, assuming the Sixers are still making second round exits in 2031 (rimshot). So if folks have concerns about property values or gentrification or whatever, we’re not here to poo poo that.

I think non-residents need to understand as well that Chinatown has a long history of fighting these kinds of initiatives because over the last half century, they’ve seen their neighborhood shrink due to projects like the Vine Street Expressway and Convention Center. Some of the older Chinatown residents are conditioned to fight anything and everything because they’ve made a lot of concessions in the past while watching their city footprint become smaller.

There’s also the consideration of the current property occupying this area, which is heading inevitably for failure and bankruptcy. The alternative could possibly be much more threatening to Chinatown, that alternative being some developer coming in here and building a bunch of towers without engaging the community at all.

For now, as of 12/15/22, we must at the very least respect the cartography. The Sixers aren’t bringing the wrecking ball to Yakitori Boy and Bar-Ly; but they’re moving in next door. The arena will have some sort of influence on neighboring Chinatown, whatever that may be, but we have to at least make a distinction here as we pay proper respect to nuance.

Crossing Broad is here to inform and educate, because not all U.S. Americans have maps: