Impact of Sixers Arena proposal on Fashion District, Greyhound, Filbert Street | Fashion

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The expanded proposal for a Philadelphia 76ers stadium would radically transform the area around the downtown stadium, and questions remain about how the organization could pull it off.

While details are few, the most recent description of the project would replace the westernmost block of the Fashion District, the Greyhound Bus Terminal building, and the adjacent block of Filbert Street behind the property.

The proposed acquisition of nearly 200,000 square feet surprised some Chinatown residents and elected officials, while raising hurdles over acquiring a downtown street, a former bus station and existing mall tenants.

» READ MORE: Proposed Sixers Arena site would expand along Filbert Street

Here’s what we know about some lingering questions facing the 76ers and their allies.

Moving Filbert Street from public to private control would require City Council legislation. Street transfers are not uncommon, but it’s unclear if the Sixers’ arena has the political support to make that happen just yet.

City Councilman Mark Squilla, whose clearance would be needed to make such a transfer in his district, said the Sixers’ plan is too vague as it stands and lacks input from the Chinatown community and surrounding businesses.

“It’s very early,” he said. “They don’t even have a complete plan yet.”

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Delivering that portion of Filbert would also require a traffic mitigation plan and other zoning adjustments to ensure the main thoroughfare remains active even when a game or event is not being hosted at the notional stadium.

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Keisha McCarty-Skelton, a spokeswoman for the Streets Department, said officials are in discussions with the Sixers organization about land use logistics, as well as “property tax calculations and community involvement.”

The block immediately west of the Filbert Street target area has been subject to periodic closure since at least 2019 to serve as a pedestrian plaza for the popular Reading Terminal Market. That proposal would leave Filbert open to car traffic most of the time.

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The stadium proposal would demolish a third of the newly developed Fashion District.

Originally hailed as a commercial anchor for the struggling East Market corridor, the three-block-long mall was intended to replace the 1970s-era Gallery Mall and its eclectic mix of low-end but beloved market stores.

But the Fashion District struggled hard during the pandemic and its recovery has been slow. In March, Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, which co-owns the mall, reported total occupancy at 78.1%, down nearly 10% from the next-lowest performing mall in its multi-state portfolio.

“I think everyone would recognize and agree that the fashion district just isn’t working,” said Steven Gartner, executive vice president of commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE, which is not involved in the mall or the development. 76ers transaction.

The Fashion District’s other co-owner and day-to-day operations manager, California-based real estate investment fund Macerich, has embraced the 76ers’ proposal. On the company’s second-quarter earnings call, CEO Tom O’Hern said tenants would be displaced only from their current building, not the entire property.

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“The reality is that today we have space available,” O’Hern said.

It is not yet clear what the position of all affected Fashion District tenants is on the proposal.

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The Greyhound terminal site once housed a portion of the Harrison Court building, a historic structure that was being converted to offices and shops in 1984 when a welding torch caused a catastrophic fire. Both the Harrison and nearby buildings were demolished the following year and the land sold for conversion into a bus station in 1986.

Greyhound has leased the drab one-story building on Filbert Street for decades, even as ownership of the 47,000-square-foot parcel changed hands.

criterion Holdings Llc, a real estate company based in New York, has owned the land since 2006, but there have been signs of interest in selling for years. Since the East Market has attracted thousands of apartments in recent years, Criterion began actively marketing the site for refurbishment, with renderings depicting a generic high-rise tower in its place.

Criterion and Greyhound did not respond to requests for comment.

But the operator has struggled to find an alternative terminal site, even as the sale of other adjacent parcels disrupted bus departures.

Anuj Gupta, chief of staff to US Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Pa.), told the Inquirer that the bus company only has a few years left on its lease. In the past, city officials considered relocating the bus station to the 30th Street Station, where other intercity bus lines pick up passengers, or to the now-defunct Police Administration Building known as the Roundhouse on Seventh Streets. and Race.

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Staff Writer Joseph N. DiStefano contributed reporting.