Will the Sixers Transform Fashion District Philadelphia Mall into a Sports Mecca?

A Historical Journey: The Genesis and Evolution of The Gallery

In 1977, in the pulsating heart of Philadelphia, a vibrant retail space known as ‘The Gallery’ was born. This shopping hub soon captured the city’s spirit, becoming integral to Philadelphia’s urban fabric.

The Gallery sprawled across approximately 1,100,000 square feet, hosting over 130 stores that offered a variety of shopping experiences to Philadelphians and visitors alike.

The mall was anchored by two departmental giants, the Strawbridge & Clothier at 8th Street and the Gimbels department store at 9th Street, which became iconic landmarks in their own right.

Fashion District Philadelphia

As is the nature of all things, The Gallery evolved. Some transformations were sudden, like the 2008 buzz around Foxwoods Casino planning to set up a spot in the beloved mall, a proposal that ultimately fell through.

Others were gradual, like the closing of Kmart in 2014, which marked the end of an era and spurred conversations about the mall’s future. This event led to plans to transform the former Kmart space into multiple street-facing stores centered around an atrium, signaling a shift in the mall’s architectural design and aesthetic appeal.

Entering a New Era: The Birth of Fashion District Philadelphia

By 2015, it was clear that The Gallery was ready for a significant overhaul. With the city council’s blessing and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s approval, a $325 million remodeling project was set in motion.

After two years of intense construction and anticipation, The Gallery was reborn as the ‘Fashion District Philadelphia’ on September 19, 2019. While the name was new, the rich history and heritage of The Gallery were skillfully woven into the fabric of the reimagined space.

The Fashion District Philadelphia was envisioned as filling the Center City market void. It aimed to provide a retail experience that was familiar and fresh, offering a wide variety of items that had previously only been available elsewhere.

Today, the mall houses major anchors like Primark, Burlington, AMC Theatres, and Round One Entertainment, offering a rich blend of shopping, entertainment, and dining experiences.

A Vision for the Future: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Fashion District

Fast forward to the present day, the Philadelphia 76ers are proposing to build a new $1.3 billion arena at the site of the Fashion District.

This project has gained the support of Macerich, the real estate investment trust that owns the Fashion District, especially as foot traffic has been slow to return to the mall in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

If the arena project goes ahead, it will significantly transform the Fashion District Philadelphia. The mall’s size would decrease to 600,000 square feet, but a bridge would connect the arena and the mall, and new mall tenants would cater to arena-goers. The stadium is expected to have around 18,000 seats and become the mall’s centerpiece​​.

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However, not everyone supports this proposed project. There is vocal opposition from residents of neighboring Chinatown over concerns about gentrification and displacement, and there are also questions about the impact an NBA arena would have on traffic and infrastructure in Center City.

The City of Philadelphia has announced it will conduct an independent evaluation of the impact, opportunities, and challenges associated with the Sixers’ proposal, and the results of this study could play a significant role in determining the project’s fate​​.

Though exciting, the arena proposal still has several obstacles to clear before it comes to fruition. The Sixers’ current plan allows entitlements and approvals to be received through 2024 and design work to be done through 2026, with demolition in 2026 and 2027 and construction from 2028 to 2031.

The targeted opening date is 2031, when the Sixers’ lease at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia expires​.

However, the Philadelphia City Council’s Rules Committee has endorsed the Sixers’ plan to build a new arena at the site of the Fashion District. This development is a significant step forward for the project but needs city approval to move forward fully​.

Cherelle Parker’s recent victory in the Democratic Primary for the mayoral election is good news for the Philadelphia 76ers’ arena proposal. It is expected that Parker could become the city’s new leader in the November 2023 election and will support this ambitious project, potentially contributing to Fashion District Philadelphia.

The Mall’s Legacy

Throughout its history, the mall has symbolized Philadelphia’s evolving urban landscape. From the early days of The Gallery to the proposed Sixers’ arena, it has mirrored the city’s spirit of reinvention. Whether reminiscing or looking forward to the future, the mall will always hold a special place.

As it stands, the future of Fashion District Philadelphia is still uncertain. So let’s keep our eyes on this space and hope for the best. After all, it’s not just a mall but a part of shared history and identity.

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