By Tommy Matthews
The dust is starting to settle on the Sixers blockbuster Wednesday announcement that they are planning a new arena in Center City, between 10th and 11th Streets and Market.
And with all the sound and fury about what it will mean for traffic, access, etc., one thing is perfectly clear:
“We never looked at Camden,” Davis Adelman, CEO of Campus Apartments who is involved with Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which is the parent company of the Sixers.
“We were never going to leave Philadelphia,” he told the Philly Business Journal:
As Adelman continued to explore Philadelphia, he was focused on finding a site that had solid infrastructure and access to transportation, two main characteristics that were necessary to the future success of a project. As he rounded a corner to head down East Market Street, National Real Estate Development’s mixed-use project came into view.
“Wow,” Adelman recalled. “Market Street is coming to life.”
That excitement was short lived.
Fashion District, while it underwent a more than $400 million redevelopment that turned portions of it outward facing, and was infused with new tenants, it lacked vibrancy. The 1.1-million-square-foot urban mall had suffered as a result of the pandemic and other market forces.
“It’s been around for 40-plus years and they put some capital into it but it isn’t living to its full potential,” Adelman said. “The truth is maybe it was too big.”
For all that it may lack, Fashion District has great transportation, infrastructure and is centrally located.
Adelman said he made a call to Macerich Co., the Arizona real estate investment trust that owns Fashion District, to gauge its interest in exploring a deal and company officials were receptive. A representative from Macerich wasn’t immediately available for comment on Thursday.
The plan at this point would involve the Sixers buying a block-sized portion of the Fashion District, which amounts to a third of the retail center, that runs from 10th to 11th streets from Macerich. Terms and timing of that transaction aren’t being disclosed at this time.
The existing structure would be razed and a new, privately funded $1.3 billion arena called 76 Place would rise in its place.
“One of things I’m really excited about is traditionally when you build an arena, you have to go into a neighborhood and buy land but we have the ability to build on an existing site and build a new box,” Adelman said.