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Could 76 Place be a $1 billion mistake?

A new downtown sports arena that would house the Philadelphia 76ers as its primary tenant is being touted as an exciting addition to the city. The real question becomes is that optimism warranted?

Not everyone thinks so.

The unintended consequences of building a new arena could far outweigh the benefits, according to a new analysis.

A study compiled by Dr. Arthur Acolin of the University of Washington asserts that the 76 Place project could ultimately result in the loss of more than $1 billion in tax revenue.

Acolin, a leading economist, Associate Professor and Bob Filley Endowed Chair in the Department of Real Estate at the University of Washington, asserts in the study that 76 Place could destabilize the existing tax base and decimate businesses and employment in the area of the project.

Acolin cites up to 16,000 lost jobs and 566 shuttered businesses that could result over the course of the five-year expected span of construction and the projected 30-year useful life of the arena.

“76 Place threatens a crucial tax base and economic engine for the city of Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania,” Acolin said. “The disruptions and eventual loss of small and mid-size businesses in the area could have long lasting negative consequences for growth potential in Center City and beyond.” 

With a yearly contribution of $296 million in tax revenue generated by existing businesses in the area, disrupting that tax stream during construction, then following completion of the project would have a significant impact on employees and finances for the city and the state.

“Established taxpaying businesses and employees are an asset that could be dismantled if an arena is built,” Acolin said. “With such a high cost for building an arena, officials would be wise to consider alternative projects that invest and operate in synergy with the existing tax base, rather than jeopardize it. Local businesses and workers generate significant contributions to the local economy that are not easily replaced.”

The Save Chinatown Coalition has helped consolidate public concerns about the proposed 76 Place project. The latest study is yet another point in the coalition’s ever stronger case against the arena project.

“This study reinforces that 76 Place would be a monument to exploitation and come at a high cost to children, families and taxpayers,” Save Chinatown Coalition member Bishop Dwayne Royster said. “When arenas rise, wages for black workers plummet and small businesses struggle. Lost wages for black workers, the erasure of small businesses and a loss of $1 billion in tax revenue will deepen existing inequity and harm the people who need the most and already get the least.”

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