He represents district 1, which spans an entire swath of the eastern part of Philly, including Market East and Chinatown, the border on which the Sixers are targeting for their new arena. With the project still in its infancy, Squilla said this about the current status of the proposal:
“I know the Sixers said they wanted to have some type of legislation by June. I find that very hard to believe since they are still in an engagement process. It’s still early on. There’s still a lot of work that has to be done, not only with the community and Chinatown and (Washington Square West) community neighbors, but also with the adjoining businesses there, Reading Terminal Market, Jefferson, also with SEPTA and other things. So there are a lot of conversations to be had about this arena, if it was to be situated where they want it to be located, how it would impact the surrounding community, and if it would work. I like the conversations. Initially there’s been a lot of opposition to that, concerns from the surrounding communities, but I think it’s only fair to have this process play out and have the community input and the other stakeholders’ part of those conversations to see if it could actually work.”
The arena is planned for the area of Market Street between 10th and 11th, extending to Filbert Street where the Greyhound bus terminal currently is. Owners of that property are on an expiring lease and the city has been considering options there for some time.
Squilla noted that the part of the Fashion District currently occupying the proposed site is a “challenged area” in need of attention.
“This is an opportunity, but you don’t want to destroy an area by trying to increase its potential. So I think what we want to do first is look at what are the challenges of a site in and near a vibrant Chinatown community, how can those challenges be mitigated by the development team, and what they’re doing right now is meeting with the community and hearing from them. There are some people really adamantly opposed to it. There are others who say ‘let’s wait and listen and see what’s happening.’ (The Sixers are) going to allow the process to play out and listen to it and then offer up some ideas of how they could hopefully mediate some of those concerns in order for this project to move forward.”
Squilla noted that arena legislation won’t/can’t move forward until the community and Sixers relationship is sorted out. He’s more or less putting the onus on the Sixers to answer community concerns as the process continues, then move on to the next step based on how these discussions go.
More from our interview here: