76ers Arena Plan Includes Revamp Of Entire Fashion District Mall
When the Philadelphia 76ers announced their intention to build a new arena on a site occupied by part of Fashion District Philadelphia, the future of the Center City mall was immediately called into question.
That question was answered by the arena project's leaders on a walking tour with reporters on Friday. 76 Devcorp, the company the 76ers formed to oversee the project, will purchase the westernmost third of the three-block-long Fashion District from its joint venture owners Macerich and PREIT. On that spot would be the $1.3B arena, planned to deliver in 2031 with the working title 76 Place.
Fashion District's remaining two blocks will be redeveloped, both to incorporate a connection to the arena and to reimagine the property's retail mix and connection to the streetscape outside, Harris-Blitzer Sports and Entertainment CEO Tad Brown and 76 Devcorp CEO David Adelman told Bisnow on the tour. The Sixers will have strategic input into details of the redevelopment, including tenant selection.
After PREIT finished development on the 850K SF Fashion District in late 2019 with Macerich as an equity partner, the mall has never been fully leased or performed up to expectations, its fate inextricably tied to the pandemic's outbreak in early 2020.
"It's 1 p.m. on Friday, and there's not much going on here," Adelman said while standing on the concourse level of Fashion District. "It should be asked: If we don't do this arena, then what will happen to the mall?"
As of the third quarter, Fashion District was 82% leased and among the worst-performing malls in PREIT's portfolio in terms of net operating income, according to the company's quarterly report.
In December 2020, PREIT ceded control of Fashion District to Macerich in exchange for Macerich's help in paying down its onerous debt load — debt that continues to hang over PREIT and endanger its survival. PREIT has not been involved in negotiations over the arena and Fashion District, Adelman said.
Fashion District stretches along the north side of Market Street from Eighth to 11th streets in the subsection of Center City dubbed Market East. Along the south side runs a line of mostly one- and two-story retail properties, several of which were boarded up and have been for years. Neither side of Market inspires much street-level liveliness, Adelman and Brown said.
HSBE and 76 Devcorp plan to surround the arena itself with dining and entertainment-focused retail that opens out onto the street, and for the locked rear doors of the inward-facing mall tenants to be replaced with street-facing uses. To the north of Market Street, seating for the planned arena would stretch over Filbert Street, which would be closed to vehicles and covered by the building to create a pedestrian arcade.
"The goal is to create an environment on the street where you don't even know if there's a game going on," said Adelman, who is also a minority owner of the 76ers after buying a stake in HBSE from Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin.
Indoors, access to the planned arena would be even more seamless. In addition to the planned mall connection, 76 Place would integrate a redeveloped Jefferson Station, one of two Center City hubs for SEPTA's regional rail system. That redevelopment would not include a rerouting of any rail lines, even though the closest platform is less than 200 feet from where the court itself would be.
CORRECTION, NOV. 22, 9:45 A.M. ET: A previous version of this article misstated 76 Devcorp's plan for Filbert Street. This article has been updated.