The Philadelphia Police Department intends to move its headquarters into the white tower at Broad and Callowhill Streets that for decades housed the Inquirer and Daily News, jettisoning plans to move to a site in West Philadelphia that the city spent about $50 million to buy and renovate.
City officials said Wednesday that the former newspaper building at 400 N. Broad St. had been chosen as the new Police Administration Building because of its central location, ample parking, and spacious interior, which can accommodate a greater number of law enforcement functions. Plans call for police to move from the cramped and dated four-story cement building at 750 Race St., popularly known at the Roundhouse, by the spring of 2020, officials said.
“This is a great location for the efficiency of police operations,” planning and development director Anne Fadullon said at an afternoon news conference at City Hall.
Also moving into the building will be Philadelphia’s morgue; the city’s toxicology lab; office functions currently spread across various sites; the emergency dispatch center; and the Sixth and Ninth Police District stations, now in Chinatown and the Art Museum area.
The city previously announced plans to move Police Headquarters into the neoclassical former Provident Mutual Life Insurance Co. building at 4601 Market St. That building is about 100,000 square feet smaller than the 466,000-square-foot former newspaper tower and would not have been able to accommodate the dispatch center and district stations, officials said.
Having more such functions in one place offers efficiencies that will allow officers to spend more time patrolling, Police Commissioner Richard Ross said.
Another advantage over the Market Street site is easier highway access from the Northeast, where a large number of officers live, Ross said.
“It’s a trek just to get” to City Hall, he said. “But there’s no easy way to get to 4601 from Northeast Philadelphia.”
The iconic 18-story newspaper building, dubbed by the journalists who worked there as the Tower of Truth, was completed in 1924 to house the Inquirer. The Daily News moved into the building in 1965.
Both newspapers and their website, Philly.com, moved in July 2012 to the third floor of the former Strawbridge & Clothier department store at 801 Market St.
Developer Bart Blatstein’s company bought the newspaper building in 2011 for $22.65 million, according to records filed with the city. After losing out on a casino license in 2014, Blatstein began planning to renovate the tower as a 125-room boutique hotel.
The Police Department’s move is expected to cost about $290 million, roughly the same as the city would have paid to finish renovating the gold-domed Provident Mutual building, Fadullon said.
Original cost estimates for moving into the 90-year-old insurance company building came to about $250 million, but did not include elements such as structured parking that would be needed at the site, she said. The newspaper building comes with nearly 600 parking spaces.
The city will initially lease the property from an entity controlled by Blatstein to enable the use of tax credits for renovations available only to private owners, but will eventually buy the building, Fadullon said.
The Roundhouse property, where police have been based since 1963, will be sold for redevelopment, as will the Medical Examiner’s Office on University Avenue near Civic Center Boulevard, and the Sixth District building at 11th and Vine Streets.
The sales are expected to generate about $50 million, said Public Properties Commissioner Bridget Collins-Greenwald. The city also will save on the rent it pays to occupy the Ninth District building near 21st and Hamilton Streets.
Officials plan in coming months to begin the formal process of seeking bidders for the Provident Mutual building, which was selected during the Nutter administration, and to have selected a developer for the site by the end of the year, officials said.
But Fadullon said all of the costs sunk into the building will not likely be made back.
“Just to be clear, we expect we will not recoup $50 million worth of costs,” she said.