Hiring completed for three RFPs seeking independent analyses of arena proposal; more information on City’s due diligence available at phila.gov/arena-proposal.

PHILADELPHIA — Today the City of Philadelphia and PIDC announced an update on the status of three requests for proposals (RFPs) issued by PIDC earlier this year. The RFPs sought expert consultants to provide independent, third-party analysis of a proposal made by 76DevCo, a private developer connected to the Philadelphia 76ers, to build and operate an arena at 10th and Market Streets in Center City Philadelphia. 

Convergence Design, LLC and Ian Smith Design Group (IS-DG) have been hired to provide support to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC), an agency within the city’s Department of Planning and Development, when it is reviewing the proposed arena design. With Convergence Design and IS-DG under contract, hiring has been completed for all three arena-related RFPs: arena design consulting, community impact assessment, and economic analysis. Consultants were hired to conduct a community impact assessment (BJH Advisors, Sojourner Consulting, Urban Partners, Drs. Susannah Laramee Kidd and Laureen Hom, and AKRF) and an economic impact assessment (CSL) in July 2023 and began their work soon thereafter. In addition, JMT, an engineering firm previously retained by the City of Philadelphia Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability, is working with the City, PennDOT, and SEPTA to evaluate potential traffic and transportation impacts. 

Arena design 

Convergence Design and IS-DG are focusing on how aspects of arena design affect and interact with the public realm. These include analyzing the facade, entrances, access to retail space, pedestrian experience, crowd circulation, and impact on SEPTA’s Jefferson Station, which is located beneath the proposed arena site. 

Convergence Design is a national firm headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, specializing in architectural design of public gathering spaces. Examples of Convergence’s design work include PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates; Minute Maid Park, attached to downtown Houston’s Union Station; and a new football stadium at Alabama State University, a historically Black university (HBCU) in Montgomery, Alabama. For this project Convergence has partnered with IS-DG, a culturally sensitive Philadelphia architecture firm experienced in inspiring ideas to elevate socioeconomically complicated, sustainable design. Among many other projects in the city, IS-DG has worked on designs and studies for the Vare Recreation Center, Independence Beer Garden, and Joe Frazier’s gym. 

“Our firm has decades of experience designing arenas and other buildings where tens of thousands of people assemble, including many located in complex urban spaces,” said David Greusel, FAIA, a principal at Convergence Design. “We look forward to collaborating with the talented architects at Ian Smith Design Group to share our insight and expertise with the leadership and staff of Philadelphia’s Planning Commission.”

“The interaction between people and the built environment in urban settings is central to our firm’s work, said Ian Smith, the principal at IS-DG. “Our diverse team is well-prepared to support the Planning Commission in applying this lens to the proposed downtown arena.” 

The City previously announced the consultant firms hired for the two other RFPs. Updates on that work is below: 

Community impact assessment

A team consisting of national real estate advisory and planning firm BJH Advisors; Sojourner Consulting, a Philadelphia-based firm with a track record of engaging immigrant-based populations; economic development consultants Urban Partners; research consultants Drs. Susannah Laramee Kidd and Laureen Hom; and environmental, planning, and engineering consultants AKRF were selected to analyze and report on how an arena would impact Chinatown and other neighborhoods near the proposed site.

“Development conversations are usually focused on the benefit of the project. Our approach is to first understand the community—what it needs, how it works and its significance. Only then can anyone assess impact,” said Sarah Yeung, Principal of Sojourner Consulting. “We’re trying to tell the story of the community.”

“We understand that many Chinatown residents and business owners are tired of hearing about the arena and tired of talking about it. We know they are skeptical that what they have to say will make a difference,” said Eleanor Sharpe, Interim Deputy Mayor and Director of the Department of Planning and Development. “But the City is committed to hearing from Chinatown. That’s why the City issued this type of community impact assessment RFP and why we hired a whole team of experts to carry out the work.”

More information about the work of the community impact assessment consultants is available online at phila.gov/arena-proposal and in this July 2023 press release.

Economic Analysis

CSL, a leading facilities advisory and planning firm specializing in the sports, entertainment, convention and leisure industries, is continuing its work on in-depth economic analyses and projections regarding the proposed arena. Among CSL’s tasks are looking at comparable arenas and at markets that host more than one arena. 

Cost and timing

Having participated in the development of Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field, PIDC anticipated that conducting due diligence on a proposal as complex as a downtown arena would be costly. In light of the City’s position that development costs should be paid by developers – not taxpayers – PIDC directed 76DevCo to deposit funds into a PIDC-managed account to fund the due diligence process. These funds are now being used by PIDC to pay the consultants assisting the City in conducting its due diligence.

“It has been implied by some that the consultants are biased towards the arena because the funds originated from 76DevCo,” said Interim Deputy Mayor Sharpe. “But the consultants are getting paid for the work they do whether it aligns with 76DevCo intentions or not.  Feedback and cooperation from the surrounding communities is vital to informing the City’s understanding of the Sixers’ proposal.” 

The work of the community impact consultants and economic impact consultants will culminate in reports expected by the end of 2023. These reports will not make recommendations; rather, they will assess potential scenarios and impacts with an arena and without an arena. Unlike the other consultants, Convergence Design and IS-DG have not been charged with producing a report. Instead, they have been retained to advise PCPC and the City on an on-call basis about arena design considerations. 

More information about the City’s due diligence efforts on this proposal are available at phila.gov/arena-proposal.