When the Sixers went public with their downtown arena plan, they also announced the existence of 76 Devcorp. Formed to continue efforts to build a stadium at 10th and Market streets, the new development corporation is chaired by David Adelman.
Adelman has been a longtime player in Philadelphia real estate — since he was a teenager, for example — and has several ties to the 76ers.
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People in the orbit of the University of Pennsylvania probably know it from Campus Apartments, the largest housing company serving students. Adelman has been CEO of that company for 25 years, but his footprint is even bigger.
Here’s what we know about the man who, if the project is finalized, will build what’s called 76 Place on Market East.
Where did it start?
Adelman, 50, was born and raised in Penn Valley, Lower Merion. He is a long-term investor in Philly’s housing stock. How long? The story goes that he got his start as a teenager, when he gave $2,000 of his bar mitzvah money to real estate developer Alan Horvitz to invest in property at 45th and Pine Streets.
Horwitz, a family friend who mentored the young Adelman, is the founder of Campus Apartments. The company started in the late 1950s to serve Penn students, but has expanded nationwide.
Many Philadelphians already know Horwitz, whether they realize it or not, as the 76ers’ sixth man, a floor fanatic who is essentially to the Wells Fargo Center what Spike Lee is to Madison Square Garden, minus the directing pedigree.
Adelman succeeded Horwitz as CEO of Campus Apartments in 1997 and has grown his holdings from there.
The grandson of a Holocaust survivor, he is a former chairman of the Philadelphia Holocaust Foundation. He also serves on several other boards, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the University City District, Penn Medicine and the USC Shoah Foundation, according to his online biography.
What shares does he have now and how rich is he?
Adelman said real estate is his favorite investment, but that hasn’t stopped him from pursuing other ventures.
He is vice chairman of the asset management firm FS Investments, fka Franklin Square Capital Partners, which he co-founded in 2007 and which is known for its pioneering work in investing through business development companies. Adelman also founded Darco Capital, a venture capital firm that has invested in GoPuff, the 76ers Innovation Lab and Major League club Crystal Palace.
Campus Apartments, where it all began and where he is still CEO, has more than $1.5 billion in assets under management in 18 states at more than 50 universities and colleges, according to its website.
Between his various holdings — the most profitable of which is reportedly FS Investments with $25 billion in assets — Insider estimated that Adelman has a personal net worth of about $1.6 billion.
What is its role in the university town area?
Adelman helped create the University City District, a special service district that transformed the part of West Philadelphia around Penn and Drexel. Today he is vice-chairman of the board of UCD.
In a fact sheet published when the group first started in 1997, a Penn official described UCD as a community revitalization partnership “of local property owners and other stakeholders to develop and implement a program of cleanup, security and other services,” that it “serves as an advocate for improving city services.”
In Philadelphia, business improvement districts are funded by a fee or tax on area property owners or businesses to provide services to the immediate neighborhood. Adelman was originally the area’s largest private benefactor, according to a profile in Multifamily Executive magazine, donating half a million dollars over a decade.
Twenty-five years after its founding, UCD organizes events like the Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll, organizes pop-ups like The Porch on 30th Street, maintains a police force, operates the LUCY shuttle, and cleans up litter and trash around the neighborhood. UCD has also been cited as a factor in the long, inexorable gentrification of the area.
Speaking in a video marking UCD’s 20th anniversary, Adelman said “we’ve reached a point where we can really focus on the positive” in West Philly, enhancing the area’s influence on the city.
This time he was put on trial
Penn students have had concerns with Campus Apartments management over the years, as reported by The Daily Pennsylvanian, alleging poor maintenance and other complaints.
In 2013, six students filed a lawsuit over a Penn-owned property managed by Campus Apartments. They cited “absolutely reprehensible conditions,” including mold, rodents and a bathroom ceiling collapse that Campus Apartments initially claimed was the tenant’s fault, the result of a faulty toilet.
The case ended in an undisclosed settlement.
What is Adelman’s role at 76 Devcorp?
He is actually the main point for building the arena in Center City.
When Sixers managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer announced their plan to locate 76 Place atop a block of Philadelphia’s Fashion District, they said Adelman was given a “mandate to find, design and develop a destination that serves as a world-class arena the class.”
Adelman will work on the project with Mosaic Development Partners, a local black-owned firm. He touted the importance of “aggressive diversity hiring goals” and said “there’s no better place to build an arena in Philadelphia than Downtown,” praising the location’s transit access and surrounding businesses that would benefit .
Some community members in Chinatown, located next to the proposed site, are skeptical of these promises. They fear the arena could lead to increased congestion and a spike in property values.
“We view the proposed 76ers arena one block from our beloved neighborhood as a threat to the continued existence of Chinatown,” wrote Debbie Way, founder of Asian Americans United, on WHYY’s PlanPhilly. “What the 76ers, Adelman and the billionaires and city officials who came before them fail to realize is that Chinatown will be fighting for its survival.”
Adelman told The Inquirer that the Sixers’ arena “will not displace any businesses or residents” in Chinatown. He also said the project’s recent expansion to include the site of the Greyhound bus terminal on Filbert Street could actually reduce traffic in the neighborhood.
“I think now that we have the big reveal, now we have to show people that we’re real,” Adelman told Forbes about the 76 Place project. He promised that he would not require public subsidies.
After engagement and design begins, demolition is slated to begin in 2026, with construction to follow in 2028 to open the arena in September 2031.