Thursday, March 28, 2013

West Side receives update on site selection for new CPD HQ

Residents of the 14 neighborhoods served by Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) District 3 got an update on the City's site selection process for a new $16 million, 40,000-square-foot headquarters building Wednesday evening at Elder High School's Schaeper Center.

The public meeting was a follow-up to one held on Feb. 6, during which the number of prospective sites was narrowed down to five.

The City has budgeted the funding for a facility of up to 40,000 square feet to replace the current headquarters at 3201 Warsaw Avenue, built in 1908 to accommodate 40 officers. It now houses 161 officers, plus staff, and has been deemed structurally and technologically obsolete. It also lacks sufficient parking, community and storage space, and is not ADA-compliant.

District 3 serves more than 95,000 residents and encompasses approximately 20 square miles and includes the neighborhoods of East Price Hill, East Westwood, English Woods, Lower Price Hill, Millvale, North Fairmount, Riverside, Sayler Park, Sedamsville, South Cumminsville, South Fairmount, the Villages at Roll Hill, West Price Hill, and Westwood.

The neighborhoods of East Price Hill, West Price Hill and Westwood include 85 percent of the district's customers and between 82 and 92 percent of the district's service calls.

The goal is to provide a headquarters that best serves the entire district, spurs neighborhood revitalization, and provides the best, state-of-the-art work environment for approximately 200 CPD officers.

"We want to make sure we do this right," said Assistant City Manager Scott Stiles. "We don't get to do this very often."

Five sites reviewed

The five sites identified at the Feb. 6 meeting were 1046-1048 Considine Avenue, 1945 Dunham Way, 2300 Ferguson Road, Hawthorne Avenue (south of the current headquarters), and the former Midway School.

One of the sites likely will be dropped altogether, said Department of City Planning and Buildings Senior City Planner Katherine Keough-Jurs. It's owned by Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority and could take between two and three year to acquire, she said.

"The only one that's off the table is Considine, unfortunately, simply because of the time it would take to get site control," Keough-Jurs said.

Two of the other five could also prove problematic, she said. The Cincinnati Recreation Commission is "very far along" in the design process for $3.2 million in improvements at the Hawthorne site, and the availability of the Midway School site, currently owned by Mercy Health, is unknown.

New sites added

An additional 16 sites were suggested by participants at the Feb. 6 meeting – some by the property owners themselves.

City staff reviewed all of the sites, but many had significant drawbacks such as being on a small or oddly-shaped lot, steep slopes, utility or sewer complications, site access, residential environs, or lack of availability. At least three sites would require demolition, and some contained occupied housing units.

Three of the sites, a vacant medical office building at 2841 Boudinot Avenue and sites at Glenway and N Overlook avenues and at Glenway and Seton avenues, were advanced to join Dunham, Ferguson, Hawthorne, and Midway School.

The site at Glenway and Seton, only about an acre by itself, could require the acquisition of adjacent housing to make it viable based upon three separate options presented.

If the City were to select a site with housing units, it would look for an area with a large number of foreclosed properties, Stiles said.

"I just can't comprehend a scenario where we would recommend going to eminent domain and taking a homeowner's property," he said.

And property acquisition, demolition, and utility work would cut into the project's budget, Stiles said.

"The less of that stuff we have to do, the more we can put into the building itself," he said.

Ferguson first

During a half-hour discussion session, the Ferguson Road site was by far the most popular. Dunham and Midway School were largely panned, largely because they are in recreational areas in or in residential neighborhoods.

One resident asked what the officers themselves think.

"There's obviously in-house discussion, but it's secondary to what the community wants," said District 3 Captain Russ Neville.

The officers' opinion will really come into play once the site is selected and the building is being designed, he said.

Renderings must wait for site

MSA Architects is well into its work to figure out the building's programming and use needs, how spaces must be arranged to flow efficiently, how it fits with professional policing standards, and sustainability features that can help it achieve a minimum LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

But a lot of the "look" of the building will have to wait for an actual site to be identified. That should be done by late April or early May, when three to five suggested sites will be made to City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr.

"We can't fall in love with any one site," Keough-Jurs said. "We're talking about real estate deals here. So we have to have several options in mind to present to the City Manager."

Groundbreaking is scheduled for this fall, with completion by spring 2015.

Additional public meetings will be held, even after the site is selected.

"After all, this building is for the community and for the benefit of the police officers that serve us," Stiles said.

Future of historic building

So what becomes of the current headquarters, a 10,602-square-foot facility listed on the National Register of Historic Places?

"There has been quite a bit of discussion about our desire to have a police presence in that building, no matter where we go," Neville said. "The Chief is very supportive of that."

Steve Kramer, retired CPD lieutenant and director of the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society Museum, said that his organization became interested in the property more than four years ago due to a rapid expansion of his 4,500-square-foot museum at 760 Freeman Avenue. After looking around Downtown and Queensgate for a new location for his museum, the recent meetings regarding a new headquarters caught his attention.

And even though the building is not as big of a building as he'd like, having a museum in the same building as an active police facility would create a nice synergy, he said.

"To us, it's a very interesting building," Kramer said. "It still intrigues us."

Previous reading on BC:
CPD District 3 HQ discussion continues Mar. 27 (3/18/13)
5 sites proposed for new CPD District 3 HQ, but input still needed (2/11/13)
Public hearing on new District 3 HQ Feb. 6 (1/29/13)
January report on new District Three station to address East Price Hill concerns (12/14/12)
West Price Hill property offered to City for new District 3 police station (1/27/09)