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.  

Image: Peter Olson Collection, Athenaeum of Philadelphia

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

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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. 

Preservation Alliance Welcomes Four New Board Members

We are pleased to announce the election of four new members to the Preservation Alliance Board of Directors. Each bring unique strengths and will allow the Alliance to further pursue its mission and cultivate new, mutually beneficial relationships. They include:

Sylvia Watts McKinney 

Executive Director, Summer Search 

Sylvia Watts McKinney is the Executive Director of the Summer Search Philadelphia office. 

Prior to joining Summer Search, Sylvia built an exemplary career in education and entrepreneurship. She started her real estate career with a start-up company, Taylor Properties. As Executive Director of the Museum of African American History in Boston and the Philadelphia chapter of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, she provided leadership on key strategic plans, implemented fundraising programs, and effectively promoted the missions of both organizations. 

Christopher Miller 

Senior Partner, John Milner Architects, Inc. 


Christopher Miller joined John Milner Architects in 1998 and became a Principal of the firm in 2009. Christopher is a registered architect with over 25 years of experience. He has a particular interest in historically significant ecclesiastical, institutional and cultural property projects that involve restoration, rehabilitation, adaptive-reuse and sensitive additions.   

Many of his projects have been recognized for their excellence at local, regional and national levels. 

Doug Jordan 

Managing Principal, Southwood Properties 

Douglas Jordan is the founder and Managing Partner at Southwood Properties, which invests locally with a primary focus on adaptive reuse of existing buildings. He was previously a Co-founder and Managing Partner at Alterra Property Group, where he acquired, developed, and managed a portfolio of 2000 residential units and mixed-use commercial properties.  

Kevin T. King, Jr., Assoc. AIA 

Designer, Voith Mactavish Architects 

Kevin King, Assoc. AIA, developed a portfolio of hospitality, cultural and educational design work before joining VMA. He received his Bachelor of Architecture from Philadelphia University (now Thomas Jefferson University) and graduated summa cum laude as a Distinguished Honors Scholar. Today, Kevin actively volunteers time as Co-chair of the Young Friends of the Preservation Alliance (YFPA) and serves as liaison between the YFPA and the Alliance Board.  

2022 Architectural Dinner

honoring Ken Weinstein

Thursday, September 22nd

5:30 PM – 8:30 PM

Glen Foerd, 5001 Grant Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19114

Tickets Available Now

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