Survey shows majority of Wash West residents oppose Sixers arena

The poll from the Washington Square West Civic Association means residents from two nearby neighborhoods are against the $1.55 billion project.

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File photo: A sign in Philadelphia’s Chinatown neighborhood denounces the proposed Sixers area. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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A community survey conducted by the Washington Square West Civic Association shows residents strongly oppose the Sixers’ plan to build a new basketball arena near the neighborhood.

A total of 412 residents participated in the single-question survey, which asked people whether they were “in favor of, opposed to, or neutral about the 76ers arena venue on Market Street.”

About 77% of respondents said they are opposed to the project. Roughly 13% said they are in favor of it. The rest were either neutral or undecided.

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The survey does not spell out why neighbors are opposed to the $1.55 billion arena, which would sit on Market Street between 10th and 11th streets. Washington Square West covers an area roughly between 7th and Broad streets, from Chestnut to South streets.

The civic’s board has yet to weigh in on the proposal. And the group’s president and vice president declined to comment.

In a statement, Sixers spokesperson Nicole Gainer said the polling “only sampled a small group of individuals, was not reflective of the full Washington Square community, and did not represent the opinion of its Board.”

“We remain in productive, active dialogue with Washington Square community leaders about how our project can positively impact and support the revitalization of a critical part of Center City, and, as such, be a benefit to Washington Square residents and adjacent businesses,” Gainer said.

The survey comes as the Sixers hope to secure zoning approvals needed to proceed to demolition and construction. A lack of community support for the project could influence whether it moves forward.

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City Councilmember Mark Squilla, whose district includes the proposed site, has said the opinions of immediate neighbors, including his constituents in Washington Square West, will inform his position on the project. He has also said the results of two forthcoming impact studies will influence his decision making.

“If it comes back and says, ‘Hey, listen, it doesn’t work in this location. The city can’t sustain two arenas of this size or whatever comes back’ and says it just isn’t feasible, then I would say, ‘Yeah. I mean, it’s very possible that it wouldn’t be introduced,’” said Squilla in July.

The city announced before the holidays that the results of those studies, commissioned to evaluate the economic and community impacts of the Sixers’ proposal, would be released sometime this year.

Chinatown, which sits footsteps from the proposed arena, remains overwhelmingly opposed to the project. Surveys conducted last year by the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation found that 93% of business owners, 94% of residents, and 95% of visitors oppose the arena.

Opponents of the arena worry the development will destroy Chinatown and its cultural identity, while displacing longtime residents and businesses. They’re concerned the project will create so much traffic congestion that people will look to avoid Chinatown.

The Sixers hope to open the arena in 2031, the same year its lease expires at the Wells Fargo in South Philadelphia, where the team has played for nearly three decades.

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