The p-center problem is one of choosing p facilities from a set of candidates to satisfy the demands of n clients in order to minimize the maximum cost between a client and the facility to which it is assigned. In this article, PBS, a population based meta-heuristic for the p-center problem, is described. PBS is a genetic algorithm based meta-heuristic that uses phenotype crossover and directed mutation operators to generate new starting points for a local search. For larger p-center instances, PBS is able to effectively utilize a number of computer processors. It is shown empirically that PBS has comparable performance to state-of-the-art exact and approximate algorithms for a range of p-center benchmark instances.