Editor’s Note: When the Philadelphia Inquirer packed its bags for the old Strawbridge and Clothier store 8th and Market in 2012, the fate of one of the city’s grandest skyscrapers was set adrift. The newspaper’s current owner, Philadelphia Media Network, sold the Inquirer’s 92-year-old headquarters at 400 N. Broad Street for around $19 million to developer Bart Blatstein in October 2011. The inevitable downsizing of the newspaper’s home came on the heels of nearly three decades of staff buyouts, sweeping newsroom cuts, international bureau closures, and other operational cutbacks sparked by a steady drop in circulation and declining advertising revenue. More staff buyouts and drastic restructuring continue to put a strain on the Inky’s newsroom today.
In 2015, Blatstein announced plans for renovating the 526,000-square-foot Beaux Arts behemoth into a 125-room boutique hotel after failing to obtain a license from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to turn the building into a French-themed casino. Blatstein claimed that construction on converting the 340-foot-tall skyscraper into a hotel would begin in the summer of 2016. Instead, the building has remained vacant for six years.
But change may be around the corner. In May 2017, City officials announced that the Inquirer Building, once known as the Elverson Building, had been chosen as the new Police Administration Building due to its size and location. The news was unexpected and revealed the decision by the Kenney administration to abandoned former Mayor Nutter’s established plan to relocate the PPD to the Provident Mutual Life Insurance building at 46th and Market Streets. To date, the City has spent $50.5 million renovating the stately Neoclassical campus. According to the Mayor’s Office, the dramatic and costly change in plans were based on logistics and expenses, citing the West Philadelphia location’s proximity to highway access and to the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center at 13th and Filbert Streets, parking costs, and space for 911 operations. Officials also stated that the Provident building wasn’t big enough to accommodate the 6th and 9th District stations which, due to the poor conditions of their buildings, will be relocated within the new headquarters.
Eschewing West Philadelphia for new digs on North Broad aside, the PPD plans to vacate their current headquarters, the four-story Roundhouse, a curvaceous example of Brutalist architecture at 750 Race Street, and move into a new HQ by early 2020. If the City moves ahead with the purchase of the Inquirer Building, renovations to the ivory tower is expected to cost roughly $290 million.
Photographer Chandra Lampreich offers a peek inside the empty “Tower of Truth” before renovations begin and the police move in.