There’s a mix of nostalgia and aspiration in David Adelman’s vision of a downtown arena for the 76ers. There’s a sweet spot there for someone from Adelman’s middle and generation, and he’s determined to find it with the goal of shaping what he believes will be a better Philadelphia.
“That’s all we try to do,” he said in an interview last month.
Hailing from Penn Valley, a developer who built his business turning part of West Philadelphia into the entire college town, Adelman is 50, a Gen-Xer who connects the Philly that can no longer exist and the Philly that could still exist. Who refers, with tenderness, to the time when Gimbels and Wanamaker’s and Strawbridge & Clothier made Market East the commercial center of the city. Who now wants to marry that desire of the past with the modern necessities that would come with a pleasure palace at 10th and Market: improved public transportation, partnerships with parking companies and restaurants in Chinatown, the trust of civic leaders and members of the community that the Les Sixers weren’t there strictly for themselves.
These are sizeable orders, even for a project that, if given the green light, should be completed in nine years. But now that Adelman bought a big part of Michael Rubin’s part in the Sixers, now that he’s a limited franchise partner and not just a collaborator with it, now that one of Philadelphia sports’ worst-kept secrets has come out of the bag, he becomes more than just a running companion for managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer. He’s the local face of this campaign, and the Sixers have to hope he can quell the cynicism, skepticism and realities that get in the way.
Yes, they have to hope Adelman has those connections and that credibility, because no one else does. Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment is a business giant, who once tried to secure an arena project at Penns Landing, a project that doesn’t like to lose. It would be naive to think that, if Harris Blitzer failed in this second offer, he would not consider moving the Sixers, despite Adelman’s advice. consigned insurance that the franchise will stay in Philadelphia no matter where the Sixers have to play their home games once their lease with the Wells Fargo Center expires in 2031.
“Let me be very clear about this,” Adelman said. “When Josh and David asked me to get involved in this, it was after the Penns Landing thing, I said, number one, we have to be a three-way partnership, or four-way when you count HBSE. Second, we won’t threaten to move the team Third, we have to do something really good for the city And four, don’t take it [public] silver. They were perfectly aligned.
This is no longer the key question. The key question is, will they stay aligned? And Adelman will have to do some persuading — the next mayor, the city council, the residents of Chinatown and neighborhoods surrounding the proposed site, Sixers fans across the region — that they will, that this venture will fulfill all the promises and meet all expectations.
David Gould, the Sixers’ director of diversity and impact, said he and Adelman meet with members of the Chinatown community three times a week, asking them how, for example, a major event at the Convention Center affects their business. . Such research and relationship-forging expeditions are the bare minimum of preliminary work for the Sixers, as they have begun to make promises and raise expectations, as they have already begun to expand some of their initial parameters for the draft. .
“When I look at Chinatown, I see it on the swing,” Adelman said. “It will either be a melting ice cube or it will take it to the next level. This is where we can build that solid foundation. We want everyone to play here. It will be the arena for the community, from Big 5 basketball to community events, obviously concerts, and the Sixers. I think we would like to see a WNBA team here. I don’t know how soon that will happen, but the more the better.
“Of all the real estate deals I’ve ever done, this will be the biggest single check I’ve put into a deal for the lowest yield,” he added. “It’s the truth. I’m sure no one cries for me, but it’s the truth. This is a socio-economic return for me, not a financial return.
It’s also an easy thing for a billionaire developer to say now, before he starts making demands, before people start asking him. But then, that’s the line David Adelman has chosen to follow here. He speaks for the Sixers now, and he wants to speak for the Philadelphians. The proof of his words and his commitment, however, will be in what he and his partners do, and how they do it.