Historical commission approves plan for new police station, rec center in North Philly
The $32.5 million development would occupy a series of vacant lots in Strawberry Mansion.
The 22nd District of the Philadelphia Police Department is one step closer to moving to a new location.
The Philadelphia Historical Commission on Friday unanimously approved a city proposal to build a new public safety facility at 2100 Diamond Street, about a mile away from the station’s current location.
The North Central Public Safety Complex would cover a group of vacant lots that straddle the boundary of the Diamond Street Historic District. The $32.5 million site would include a new headquarters for the 22nd District and a Police Athletic League (PAL) Center, which would include an indoor basketball court and rooms for after school study and recreation. The proposal also calls for a community space and outdoor recreation space.
A city representative said the 22nd District building at 17th Street and Montgomery Avenue is in bad condition. The station is widely considered one of the worst police headquarters in the city.
“The existing PD 22 building is in need of significant attention and investment. Repairing or replacing that facility is one of the highest priorities of their master plan. So this really fits in with the city’s priorities,” said Steve Bartlett.
In 2020, amid the George Floyd protests and fierce community opposition, the commission denied a similar proposal at the same location, in part because it found the city had not “engaged the public sufficiently.” Members also agreed with residents that the project wasn’t a good fit for the residential neighborhood, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
During Friday’s meeting, neighbors were largely supportive of the latest iteration of the project, particularly the addition of the PAL Center, which they said would provide children a safe place to learn and play.
City Council President Darrell Clarke, who is not seeking reelection after more than a decade leading the chamber, told the commission the location is ideal for one of the city’s busiest police districts. It covers an area between 10th and 33rd streets between Poplar Street and Lehigh Avenue.
“We have in the 5th councilmatic district actually recently, in the last couple of years, introduced and passed a number of preservation districts because we understand the significance of that character in these neighborhoods. In this particular case, essentially what we would be doing if we did nothing is preserving two vacant lots that have been trash-strewn and it’s been problematic over the last 20 years,” said Clarke.
A pair of neighbors spoke against the project. Jacqueline Wiggins, a retired educator and community preservationist, noted that the neighborhood has plenty of community and recreation spaces. What it doesn’t have, she said, is enough affordable housing.
“Housing for families and senior citizens is what is needed at 21st and Diamond. Not a police station. That’s not to say we don’t need a new police station. We certainly do,” said Wiggins.
With the commission’s approval, the city can now obtain building permits for the project, which will need zoning variances and approval before construction can start.
There is currently no public timeline for the development.
A mayoral spokesperson said the city hopes to solicit bids from potential developers in spring 2024.
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