First signs of redevelopment at 4601 Market St.

4601 Market St. today
As you can see in this contemporary photo, the former Provident Mutual HQ at 46th and Market streets is in mothballs. The city has plans to convert it to a new home for the Police Department and a city health center, and electrical work now commencing at the site may be preparatory to that move.

A stroll past the former Provident Mutual Life Insurance Company headquarters at 4601 Market St. reveals nothing new. But the much-rumored future home of Philadelphia Police headquarters and District Health Center 1 is showing some signs of life behind the scenes.

On Oct. 19, an electrical permit was issued for the installation of underground wiring to be used for 11 light poles and fixtures. Also, a 100-amp service panel will be installed in a field panel on the site and a panel will be installed in a guardhouse on the grounds with new wiring per the National Electric Code 2008 edition. The permit also issues the installation of empty conduit system to run future security cameras. So unless the city has all of a sudden decided to monitor the vacant site, perhaps it is literally laying the groundwork, or wiring as the case is, for the future renovations of the building.

The restoration will be hard, though, as most of the inside of the building is blocked off by barrier walls at the upper levels due to a court order in 2009.

If the building is indeed used as the police headquarters, the city picked the right place, as the 49-foot width of “Old Dusty”, a.k.a 46th street, will be more than accommodating for incoming and outgoing police cruisers. The soon-to-open, state-of-the-art Youth Study Center is located diagonally across from the 4601 market site at 48th and Haverford Ave.

A call to the contractor, Hyde Electric, said the work was for a parking lot on 48th Street, but didn’t confirm that it was for the Provident Mutual Life Insurance Building. No other information was given. There is an entrance to a parking lot on 48th Street as the site contains four buildings. Back on July 11, the city withdrew plans to build a guard booth and 184-space parking lot on the site, so perhaps this is its second try. No reason was given for withdrawing the variance petition to the Zoning Board of Adjustment in July.

Provident Mutual headquarters in 1931
The Provident Mutual headquarters when it was new: The building had opened four years before this 1931 photograph was taken.

We for one hope this is indeed the start of new work on the building, as it would be the keystone in the revitalization of this section of West Philadelphia and Walnut Hill, which has seen a revamped 46th Street El station, the repaving of Market Street from 63rd to 45th streets, and the construction of the Center for Culinary Enterprises. Next year, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s primary care centers will relocate to one site at 48th and Market, the Karabots Primary Care Center.