Chinatown community members to host public meeting on proposed 76ers arena

The Fashion District in Center City
The Fashion District mall on Market Street, where developers have proposed to build the new 76ers arena. Photo credit Tim Jimenez/KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — More than 20 Chinatown organizations will assemble on Wednesday for a public meeting on the proposed 76ers arena on Market Street. Organizers say it’s the first meeting to invite community members to voice concerns.

In the past few months, Wei Chen, civic engagement director of Asian Americans United, says developers of the arena have consistently touted meetings with the Chinatown community.

“The developer mentioned multiple times that Chinatown is neutral. We want the developer to know that Chinatown is not neutral,” said Chen.

Chen says those meetings were invitation-only and lacked interpreters.

“They do not have any language material, or even give a chance for community members to ask questions. This is totally not a fair situation for my community,” he told KYW Newsradio.

“Language accessibility is most important, because our communities still have a lot of older generations that have a language barrier.”

Chen says opponents of the arena are making their opinions seen, if not heard.

“You can see the signs saying ‘No arena’ in the many small businesses in Chinatown. And we're not just putting it out for random, we're asking every single business owner if they support us to put this sign up,” said Chen.

“Our organizations, our staff, our members, our volunteers are out on the street every single day talking to folks about this arena,” added Mohan Seshadri, executive director of civil rights association Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance. “They're not hearing a lot of folks come out of the woodwork saying, ‘Hey, we really want this arena.’”

Seshadri says they’re hosting a community meeting that’s accessible to everyone, with hundreds expected to attend. Both Asian Americans United and API PA will be represented.

Other groups expected to attend include:
Concerned Citizens of Chinatown Association
Changle Association of Greater Philadelphia
Philadelphia Hoyu Chinese American Association
On Leong Association
Pennsylvania United Chinese Coalition
Chinese Restaurant Association of Greater Philadelphia
Philadelphia Suns
Philadelphia Chinatown Dragon Boat Team
Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School
Students for the Preservation of Chinatown
Hoyu Chinese Folk Culture Center
Asian Arts Initiative
Greater Philadelphia Fujian Association
Hok Shan Association
Greater Philadelphia United Chinese American Chamber of Commerce
Guangxi Association of Pennsylvania
Greater Philadelphia Lianjiang Association
Philadelphia Chinese Opera Society
Chinese Northeast Association of USA
American Philadelphia Chinese Women Association

The meeting is set for Wednesday, December 14 at 6 p.m. at the Ocean Harbor restaurant at 1023 Race Street in Chinatown.

“If the average working-class Chinatown resident, if the average small business owner in Chinatown is not even being invited … that's not accessible or accountable to our people,” Seshadri said.

“It's also not accessible or accountable if opponents of the arena are asked to not raise their concerns in these meetings, so that the developers or the presenters are not embarrassed or so that the hosts of these meetings are not embarrassed.”

KYW Newsradio reached out to developers for comment but did not immediately hear back.

“Since when we first launched, our website has been in English and Chinese," wrote a 76 Devcorp spokesperson in an email to KYW.

"We always bring English and Chinese versions of slides to meetings and have made sure there is someone attending meetings who can translate verbally. We have met many groups in Chinatown. This included a meeting with AAU in September — in which we shared English and Chinese versions of our slides — and asked that they help us get accurate information out to the community, but this information they are sharing is clearly inaccurate.”

Featured Image Photo Credit: Tim Jimenez/KYW Newsradio