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Unions Pledge Support For 76 Place Arena

Local unions rallied together Monday afternoon to pledge their support for a new Philadelphia 76ers arena project, a wave of support in a sea of opposition.

A rendering of the Philadelphia 76ers' proposed new home on Market Street, between 10th and 11th streets. Plans call for a green roof and solar panels.

Groups including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, the Philadelphia Building & Construction Trades Council and the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters showed up at Philly's Navy Yard in support of the $1.5B planned project led by 76 DevCo.

Unions would end up helping build the 10-year project if the controversial plan to place it near Chinatown is approved. The project awaits two independent city studies on feasibility and the impact of the planned 18,000-seat arena and a slate of apartments set for the area.

Rallying for a project is part of what IBEW Local 98 does often to advocate for construction jobs around the area, business manager Mark Lynch told Bisnow.

“We're for all projects,” Lynch said. “And that's always been our stance, and we just think, right now, with the city of Philadelphia and this opportunity to change the vision of Market East and what it needs to be, [the time] is now.” 

The proposed 76 Place would replace the western third of the Fashion District and sit adjacent to Chinatown.

The project would generate almost 10,000 union construction jobs and 1,000 permanent positions, developers have estimated. However, the 76 DevCo group had also previously promised jobs for Camden residents when the team’s practice stadium was moved to New Jersey, which didn't end up happening permanently.

Lynch said he supports partnering with public transit through the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority to get parking and subway systems underway for the project, built atop Jefferson Station. 

That work with SEPTA, Amtrak and others will make the route to Center City to catch a game or concert “more accessible ... right in the city,” he said.

But supporters might be fighting a tough battle. Several local organizers have opposed the arena, citing fears of displacement for local minority residents. Since its announcement, the Save Chinatown Coalition, Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp., Center City Organized for Responsible Development and others have come out against the project.

In response to public opposition, 76 DevCo pledged to set aside 20% of the planned apartment tower's estimated 395 units for affordable housing and fund a $50M community benefits agreement out of its own coffers.

And 76 DevCo executives announced last month, with the NAACP’s support, that 40% of the potential arena's food and beverage would be handled by Black-owned businesses. The team would also support training and employing Black workers to build the arena, executives said.