Home sweet home

— Lodge 5 opened a new FOP uni­on headquar­ters in the North­east, which in­cludes a busi­ness of­fice, so­cial hall and ca­ter­ing fa­cil­ity.

North­east Phil­adelphia is more than a bed­room com­munity for the mu­ni­cip­al work­force. Ac­cord­ing to the lead­er of the city’s po­lice uni­on, the North­east is also the primary bar­racks for act­ive and re­tired city cops.

Fraternal Or­der of Po­lice Lodge 5 Pres­id­ent John McNesby says that 68 per­cent of the uni­on’s 14,400 mem­bers live in the Great­er North­east. And the uni­on loc­al con­tin­ues to grow due to the po­lice de­part­ment’s steady cycle of re­tire­ments and hir­ing. County sher­iffs also be­long to the FOP.

Last week, Lodge 5 opened a new uni­on headquar­ters in the North­east to meet the needs of that cent­ral­ized and grow­ing mem­ber­ship. The 50,000-square-foot fa­cil­ity on Car­oline Road near North­east Air­port is a new busi­ness of­fice, so­cial hall and ca­ter­ing fa­cil­ity that FOP lead­ers ex­pect will pro­mote great­er par­ti­cip­a­tion in uni­on activ­it­ies among mem­bers while gen­er­at­ing more rev­en­ue than the former headquar­ters at 13th and Spring Garden streets did.

“The FOP mem­bers de­served bet­ter,” McNesby told the North­east Times last Wed­nes­day dur­ing a mem­bers-only open house of the fa­cil­ity. “A lot of our mem­bers live up here. This is a bet­ter way to serve them.”

The new uni­on hall is big­ger, bright­er and more ver­sat­ile than the old hall, uni­on lead­ers said. Lodge 5 in­ves­ted about $7.5 mil­lion to ren­ov­ate a ware­house on a com­mer­cial cam­pus formerly oc­cu­pied by the In­tern­al Rev­en­ue Ser­vice.

The build­ing is one of six on the 24-acre tract that the IRS leased from private own­ers for dec­ades. In late 2010, the fed­er­al agency moved its op­er­a­tions and more than 5,000 em­ploy­ees to the former U.S. Post Of­fice at 30th and Mar­ket streets. The tract bor­ders Roosevelt Boulevard to the north­w­est, a Pep­si bot­tling plant to the north­east, Car­oline Road to the south­east and ad­di­tion­al busi­ness prop­er­ties to the south­w­est.

The FOP bought the build­ing as well as 3.5 acres that sur­round it last April. Ac­cord­ing to city tax re­cords, the sale price was just over $2 mil­lion. The IRS used it primar­ily to house its com­puter sys­tems.

“We came in and tore it down to bare walls,” McNesby said.

IN­RE­VCO As­so­ci­ates, a Long Is­land-based lim­ited part­ner­ship led by pub­licly traded Ce­dar Shop­ping Cen­ters Inc., owns the re­main­ing 20-plus acres of the former IRS tract, ac­cord­ing to prop­erty tax re­cords. City Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill and the Phil­adelphia In­dus­tri­al De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion both op­pose a re­tail shop­ping cen­ter as a fu­ture use of the site, not­ing that oth­er types of com­mer­cial use such as cor­por­ate of­fices or ware­house/dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ters usu­ally gen­er­ate more fam­ily-sus­tain­ing jobs than re­tail stores do.

As a former own­er and the ori­gin­al de­veloper of the prop­erty, PIDC en­acted a deed re­stric­tion on the site to lim­it re­tail de­vel­op­ment and oth­er un­desired uses.

The FOP pro­ject en­countered no such op­pos­i­tion. Ac­cord­ing to McNesby, the new hall will gen­er­ate 60 new jobs, some full-time and oth­ers part-time, in­clud­ing kit­chen and bar staff, serv­ers, se­cur­ity guards and even park­ing valets.

The ball­room can ac­com­mod­ate up to 400 guests and fea­tures a full-ser­vice bar, cherry wood trim and wrought iron fix­tures, in­clud­ing 29 chan­deliers.

“It’s mod­ern and el­eg­ant,” said Bob Bal­lentine, the po­lice uni­on’s re­cord­ing sec­ret­ary.

“The book­ings for wed­dings are go­ing off the hook,” McNesby said.

A con­fer­ence room seats about 150 and has more of a busi­ness-like set­ting suit­able for smal­ler ban­quets, cor­por­ate af­fairs or train­ing sem­inars. It’s equipped with mod­ern au­dio/visu­al tech­no­logy.

Ac­cord­ing to McNesby, the uni­on had booked 28 wed­dings and 61 smal­ler af­fairs in ad­vance of the ce­re­mo­ni­al grand open­ing last Thursday.

The build­ing will serve the uni­on’s own day-to-day activ­it­ies well, too. The main bar and res­taur­ant have a spa­cious nightclub feel with a tower­ing ceil­ing, clean mod­ern styl­ing and about a dozen wi­descreen TVs. FOP mem­bers and their in­vited guests may come and go freely. The uni­on will also of­fer as­so­ci­ate mem­ber­ships for a fee.

About half of uni­on mem­bers are re­tired, ac­cord­ing to McNesby.

Else­where un­der the same roof, rank-and-file mem­bers can use a state-of-the-art fit­ness cen­ter for car­dio and strength train­ing. The uni­on’s Law En­force­ment Health Be­ne­fits pro­gram sponsored the fit­ness room.

“It’s all part of well­ness, keep­ing people healthy. It’s all pre­vent­at­ive,” Bal­lentine said.

The busi­ness of­fice is more com­fort­able, too, uni­on lead­ers said, al­though there are no plans to ex­pand the staff­ing. The lobby fea­tures a shop that sells po­lice duty wear and FOP-themed cas­u­al wear. A me­mori­al dis­play case holds the pho­tos of the po­lice de­part­ment’s slain of­ficers up to and in­clud­ing Of­ficer Moses Walk­er Jr., who was shot and killed by rob­bers on a North Philly street last Au­gust.

Des­pite the gran­di­ose amen­it­ies, the fa­cil­ity won’t jeop­ard­ize the uni­on’s fin­ances, re­gard­less of the level of in­terest among mem­bers and the pub­lic.

“Wheth­er we open one drink or run one af­fair, this is sus­tain­able on dues alone,” McNesby said. ••

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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