The Preservation Alliance is Philadelphia’s only non-profit organization that is engaged in comprehensive advocacy for the preservation of historic resources. Our Advocacy and Legal Defense Fund ensures the continuance of informed preservation advocacy with dedicated financial support to the full range of the Alliance’s advocacy efforts. We urge you to make a significant investment in this fund today. By doing so, you will help ensure that the Alliance is prepared to take on future challenges. Thank you!
ADVOCACY UPDATE: Repurpose the Roundhouse
Now that the Philadelphia Police Department’s relocation to the former Inquirer building on North Broad Street is nearly complete, attention has turned to the eventual fate of the former Police Administration Building (aka The Roundhouse) at 700-34 Race Street. The Department of Planning and Development has since launched a public engagement process, Framing the Future of the Roundhouse, with events planned through the remainder of the year. The Alliance has long voiced an appreciation for the Police Administration Building, designed by local firm Geddes Brecher Qualls Cunningham and completed in 1962. We’ve previously featured it as “Place to Save” in our magazine, Extant, and the building has been included in many of our programs highlighting regional modernism. As a work of Expressionist architecture, the building’s merits are undeniable (even if it is not to some people’s aesthetic tastes).
As a now former police headquarters, the building’s cultural legacy is far more complicated. Many Philadelphians embrace and respect the police. Many others have a relationship with the department that is defined by fear, resentment, or at best, skepticism – a relationship marred by direct, violent confrontations and lasting trauma.
Any repurposing of the Roundhouse must contend with this legacy. But the Police Administration can and should be repurposed. It is an immense 125,000 sqft, multi-floor structure. It is comprised of almost 90% precast concrete, structurally sound, and only sixty years old. To demolish this building, in our opinion, would represent a waste of multiple kinds: a waste of durable building materials and their embodied energy; a wasted opportunity to leverage publicly-controlled assets toward better preservation outcomes; a wasted opportunity to model how modernist, buildings can be repurposed and successfully incorporated into larger contemporary projects; and a wasted opportunity to wrestle with and reclaim the building’s unintended legacy as a symbol of police oppression.
We look forward to the results of the City’s ongoing engagement work and the Request For (redevelopment) Proposals that will likely be issued sometime in early 2023. We remain confident the Police Administration Building can be effectively “reprogrammed.” It can both accommodate uses that meet pressing civic needs, and its site (particularly its large surface parking lot to the south) can further be leveraged for ambitious redevelopment. As this process unfolds, the Alliance will remain an invested stakeholder and we hope to work with all interested parties in “framing the future” of this mid-century landmark.
African American Museum in Philadelphia Moving to Family Court Building
In other civic news, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) recently announced the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) will be relocating to the former Family Court Building at 18th and Vine Streets, as part of the long-planned reimagining of the 1940 landmark. We are excited for the AAMP as they pursue this move, which places them in the heart of the Parkway Museums District.
The Family Court Building was listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 1971, alongside its sister building, the Central Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. The Preservation Alliance successfully nominated select public interiors of the Family Court Building, including a series of WPA-era murals, to the Philadelphia Register in 2011, as we have done since with the Wanamaker Building, 30th Street Station and the former Jacob Reeds Sons store near Broad & Chestnut Streets.
Click Here for this month’s full Advocacy Update .
September Preservation To-Do List
Enjoy the beautiful weather with Preservation events around Philadelphia. This month, take a tour at the Old Swedes Church, attend the art show opening at Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion, enjoy lectures online with the Athenaeum, and much more!
Click here to view more preservation-related events around town this month.
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