Mayor eyes old Inquirer building for new Police HQ

Mayor Jim Kenney said the building is larger and more geographically central than the site that was previously considered.

A Philadelphia cornerstone: The white, 18-floor, 340-foot tower at 400 N. Broad St. has been vacant since 2012. PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA

After abandoning former Mayor Michael Nutter’s proposal to relocate the city’s Police Headquarters to West Philly, Mayor Jim Kenney last week introduced a plan to move the facility to the former home of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The white, 18-floor, 340-foot tower at 400 N. Broad St. has been vacant since 2012, a year after developer Bart Blatstein paid $22.65 million to buy the building from the newspaper’s parent company in the wake of the company’s bankruptcy. The Inquirer, Daily News and philly.com all moved to the former Strawbridge’s building at Eighth and Market streets, although the papers’ illuminated lettering still appears on the facade of the Broad Street property.

In a May 24 news conference, Kenney said the Broad Street site is 100,000 square feet larger than 4601 Market St., where Nutter was planning to move the police administrative offices as his tenure as mayor expired in January 2016.

Under Kenney’s plan, the 466,000-square-foot former newspaper building will house the police department’s central administration as well as the 6th and 9th districts, a unified police and fire communications unit, the medical examiner’s office and lab, as well as various police units such as homicide, human resources and command center.

The Philadelphia Police Department’s current headquarters, commonly known as The Roundhouse. PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA

The site is more geographically central than the 46th and Market site and is more easily accessible for employees and visitors commuting from the Northeast, North and South regions of the city. About 600 people work at the current Police Headquarters at Eighth and Race streets.

“After evaluating several different sites and weighing all the different considerations for over a year, we came to the conclusion that this space would provide taxpayers more for their money,” Kenney said. “Not only can we locate more units in one space, but this location is also more accessible to the public and creates fiscal and operations efficiencies for the city and our criminal justice partners.”

The city will lease the property from a private company Blatstein controls. The building was completed in 1924 to house the Inquirer. The Daily News moved there in 1965. Blatstein previously proposed converting it into a casino and a hotel.

Anne Fadullon, the city’s planning and development director, said the city will pay $290 million to renovate the building, about the same it would have paid to finish renovating Nutter’s chosen location at 46th and Market. The city has already paid about $50 million to acquire and renovate that site, but expects to recover some of those expenses by selling the current Police Headquarters, commonly known as “the Roundhouse,” the medical examiner’s office and the 6th district station. The city will also look for someone to buy 4601 Market St., Fadullon said.

The police department has used Eighth and Race as its headquarters since 1963. ••

William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com. Follow the Times on Twitter @NETimesOfficial.