For years, a new police headquarters to replace the shabby and cramped Roundhouse building has been near the top of the department's wish list.
Mayor Nutter said Thursday that he intended to fulfill that wish, reviving plans to transform the landmark Provident Mutual Life Insurance Co. building in West Philadelphia into a new police headquarters.
The 86-year-old building, which sits vacant on 15 acres at 46th and Market Streets, also would house the city morgue and some health department offices.
In the next year, the city plans to have $9 million in design and schematic work completed. The money would come from the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA), the city's financial oversight board.
The cost of renovating the 325,000-square-foot edifice would be determined in the design process. Construction could take two years, administration officials said.
Nutter announced his plans during his budget address Thursday.
Moving police headquarters to the limestone-and-steel Provident building was last proposed in 2008, when the cost was pegged at $70 million. The project was shelved during the recession.
The building is owned by the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. The city already is building the new Youth Study Center - a juvenile detention center - on five acres at the site.
Administration officials would not estimate how much the renovation would run now, but the cost could be offset by selling the Roundhouse, at Eighth and Race Streets, the morgue building in West Philadelphia, and health offices at Broad and Lombard Streets.
Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said the Provident building would need "a lot of work."
"It's been vacant for a while, but we all know the condition of the Roundhouse," he said. "It's far too small for our needs and it's in a state of disrepair."
Nutter said people had been talking about replacing the Roundhouse "almost since the day in 1964 when the ribbon was cut."
Capt. Joseph McDowell, who heads the Real-Time Crime Center that opened on the ground floor this year, said the move was "long overdue."
"This needed to happen," he said. "You can't have good public safety without the systems and infrastructure that goes into that, and this is going to be a great opportunity for the department to plan appropriately for the future."
The Roundhouse is centrally located, and its quirky design and nickname have elevated it to legendary status in the city's crime lore.
"A location like that, someone will bulldoze that and develop it in a heartbeat," said John McNesby, president of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police.
The Police Department was one of the clear winners in Nutter's budget address. In addition to promising a new headquarters, the mayor pledged to patch up six police stations and hire 400 new officers in the coming fiscal year.
Many of the police district buildings are in dire need of repair. City Controller Alan Butkovitz declared the department's aging infrastructure "substandard and dangerous" in 2006.
Four years later, Butkovitz found many of the problems unfixed. In 2010, he called on Nutter to spend $1.2 million to at least correct major issues such as fire-code violations, leaking roofs, and electrical problems.
A 2007 PICA report estimated that police buildings would need from $25 million to $40 million worth of repairs to bring them up to "working condition."
"You could probably throw a dart at a map and wherever it landed, there'd be plenty you could fix up in that district," McNesby said. "And you can't blame the mayor for that. It's been years of neglect. So this is a positive start."
In all, Nutter said he would spend $6.6 million on renovations for six police buildings and 11 fire stations.
Ramsey said he was not sure which district buildings would get immediate attention, but the top candidates were fairly obvious.
He mentioned the 39th and 22d Districts in North Philadelphia and the 15th District in the Lower Northeast. The 12th District building in Southwest Philadelphia also is seriously weathered.
"Our buildings don't get better with age. They deteriorate," Ramsey said. "Some of those facilities are just terrible."