Sources: Police Are Considering Moving Headquarters to Old Inquirer Building
In a move that would be rich with real estate-related irony, the Philadelphia Police Department is considering relocating its headquarters to the former home of the Inquirer and Daily News.
You might recall that former Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration spent several years mapping out an elaborate plan to move the department’s headquarters to the grand Provident Mutual Insurance Building at 46th and Market streets in West Philadelphia.
A ground-breaking ceremony for the $250 million project was held in 2014; the 13-acre plot was slated to be renamed the Public Safety Services Campus, and house the Department of Public Health and the Medical Examiner’s Office. City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell introduced two bills to secure funding for the project, which was expected to be finished in 2018. And last fall, plans for a $675,000 public art installation were announced.
But Nutter isn’t running the city anymore. Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration is reevaluating the costly move, and kicking the tires on the huge (and hugely empty) former Inquirer building at 400 N. Broad Street, sources have told Philadelphia magazine.
Mike Dunn, the mayor’s spokesman, released the following statement when asked about the possible change of plans:
The Kenney administration is in the midst of a thorough review of plans developed by the previous administration to relocate Police Headquarters and the Medical Examiner’s Office to 4601 Market Street. This is due diligence given the scope and anticipated cost of the entire project.
In light of this review, it is incumbent on the administration to simultaneously review various options, while we also continue work at 4601 Market to move the site’s improvements along. The administration is committed to choosing a site that meets the needs of the affected departments, particularly the Police Department, and that is a responsible choice for taxpayers.
With regards to 400 N. Broad Street, we have no comment.
Many cops privately grumbled over the planned move to 46th and Market. The department’s current headquarters — the unloved concrete slab known as the Roundhouse — has plenty of drawbacks, like frequent flea infestations. But its location at 7th and Race is close to the Criminal Justice Center, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, places that detectives and top brass have to regularly visit.
Housing the M.E.’s Office, the Health Department and the Police Department on the same West Philly campus would bring a surge of activity to the surrounding neighborhood, which could be a good thing. But the practicality and high cost is clearly a concern for Kenney’s team.
Of course, turning the old Inquirer building into a police command center won’t come cheap, either. But it is situated a hell of a lot closer to City Hall, the courts, and the highways. The stately building has sat empty ever since developer Bart Blatstein purchased the 526,000-square foot property in 2011 for a reported $21 million. The Daily News, Inquirer and Philly.com in turn moved to the former Strawbridge & Clothier building at 8th and Market.
Blatstein’s initial pitch to turn the building and its adjacent parking lot into a casino known as the Provence didn’t pan out. Last spring, he announced a new plan to transform the property into a $36 million boutique hotel. But little has been heard about the project since then. Blatstein declined to comment for this story.
There’s a chance that this could all turn out to be much ado about nothing. The city could simply opt to follow through on the West Philly mega-project after exploring other options. According to the fiscal year 2017 budget, the city paid $60,000 to the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. to manage the property during the last fiscal year, and was planning on shelling out the same amount again. But you have to wonder how much interest there really is in that scenario. After all, the 46th and Market site was a pet project of Nutter’s and his chief of staff, Everett Gillison’s, and Kenney hasn’t been shy about rethinking some of his predecessor’s decisions.
Staff writer Jared Brey contributed to this story.
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