Meeting on new police headquarters draws crowd

CorrespondentMarch 17, 2014 

— It was standing room only at a special City Council meeting last week resuming debate on the future headquarters of the Durham Police Department.

The discussion covered the pros and cons of each site: the existing headquarters at 505 W. Chapel Hill St., East Main Street near the Golden Belt complex, and property off Fayetteville and East Umstead streets

Police headquarters has been in its current building, built in 1959 for an insurance company, since 1991. General Services Director Joel Reitzer said even though the department needs more room, the site is still viable.

The 4-acre property could work but due to temporary parking that would need to be constructed while building a permanent deck, costs could reach $59 million and the site could 15 to 18 months longer to develop than the other sites.

Consolidation and selling properties such as the Riggsbee Avenue substation could help offset construction costs. But keeping the current location would prevent selling it to cover other costs.

The East Main Street and Fayetteville Street sites would both take about the same amount of time to develop but have their own positives and negatives.

Reitzer called the Fayetteville Street property a “hidden resource” near W.G. Pearson Elementary and the Hayti Heritage Center. The site is also about a half mile from the N.C. Central University campus. NCCU trustees expressed support for the site late last year.

The nearly 20-acre site would take about $58.6 million to develop and could house surface parking that would lower construction costs. “A parking deck would cost about five times what surface area parking is,” said Reitzer.

Issues here include traffic and noise in the Fayetteville Street corridor and the topography of the steeply sloping land, which would require a storm water retention pond.

Still, according to Office of Economic and Workforce Development Director Kevin Dick, 10 acres could be used for law enforcement purposes while the other nine acres could be used for development.

“It could stabilize the area and bring a needed gateway to the Fayetteville area,” he said.

According to an analysis, the East Main Street location near Golden Belt could cost the most to develop, about $62.9 million, again due to the need for a parking deck.

Some residents reminded the council of the past history of city development on the area.

Business owner Larry Hester said with its close proximity to rail lines and Durham Tech, “I would like to see environmentally friendly businesses here,” he said. “What the area needs is jobs.”

Gary Kueber, CEO of Golden Belt owner Scientific Properties, voiced concerns over the Main Street location.

“There already aren’t many options for development on East Main,” he said. “It needs private redevelopment.”

Wendy Hillis, the executive director of Preservation Durham, said the existing headquarters building is an example of modernist architecture by a well-known modernist and caution should be used when considering its future.

“We want the property sold as a historic property and not demolished,” she said.

Council members did not indicate when a final decision could be made.

Koonce: ckoonce29@yahoo.com

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