Philadelphia is planning to do an independent study on the impact of building a sports arena at the Fashion District, Mayor Jim Kenney announced.
“I still am very excited about the possibility of this kind of this size development in our downtown on East Market Street,” Kenney told WHYY News Wednesday afternoon, confirming his optimism about the potential of the project.
The 76ers’ proposal to build a facility at the former Gallery mall has been controversial. Since team ownership floated the idea last summer, residents and community leaders have argued over whether it would help rescue retail on East Market or spell doom for nearby Chinatown.
Now the city is getting involved to help find better answers. The mayor asked the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation to fast track a trio of requests for proposals for the arena study. Submissions are due on April 28.
“I mean, it’s just to have the information — so you can make a rational decision,” Kenney said. “Whoever makes the decision, either … this administration or the next, or Council. Of course, Council has to be involved because there’s legislative changes that are needed.”
The proposed development has received a major thumbs down from the majority of business and community groups in Chinatown, who worry about maintaining the neighborhood’s cultural identity and small business viability. It received a big endorsement, however, from Black union leaders and Black clergy after Sixers leadership pledged to include Black entrepreneurs in the project’s construction and rollout.
Responses from mayoral candidates vying to replace Kenney were mixed when asked about the Sixers arena at Tuesday’s debate on the campus of Temple University.
Kenney admitted the development has been controversial, but said he hopes the study will give clear answers, on many different issues.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for private investment. A lot of private investment in downtown and on East Market Street. But we can’t really make a decision until we have all the facts,” he said. “This study will show us, or give us an idea, regarding the impacts [it] will have on the community, on parking, on traffic, on economics. And we really can’t make a decision of this magnitude without having all that data at our fingertips.”
The requests for proposals are for studies to “assess building design, community impact and urban planning, economic impact, and parking/traffic impact,” per PIDC.
There are three separate RFPs, for:
- Community Impact Analysis
- Design Consulting Services
- Economic Analysis
Each calls on applicants to have the “ability to provide timely support and teams that show meaningful commitment to diversity … in addition to demonstrated subject matter expertise.”
Kenney said he would keep his final opinion to himself until after he has a chance to review the study, which he said could take considerable time to complete.
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