Old CPD station? New CPD station

Cleveland’s historic Central Police Station on Payne Avenue
may become the site of a large, new police headquarters and
storage facility. (Google) CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGES

Trying to repurpose an existing building in or near downtown Cleveland for the city’s new police headquarters was a well-intentioned exercise with a cost-saving goal. Despite it not being fulfilled, the effort may still have a happy ending. The reason is the police department may go back to its old home.

After rejecting two existing buildings downtown, city officials are reportedly interested in locating the new Cleveland Police Department headquarters at the site of the 1937-built Central Police Station, 2001 Payne Ave., according to source who could not speak publicly about the project because he was not authorized to do so.

The new CPD HQ will be a substantial structure, combining about 500,000 square feet of new and renovated offices, storage and parking. No construction cost estimates are available for the now-favored site, but they are likely to be far higher than the $60 million the city figured it would need to buy and modify the ex-Plain Dealer building nearby before that deal died last fall.

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The historic Central Police Station was CPD’s HQ until 1977 when the department relocated to the Justice Center, 1300 Ontario St. But the old HQ measures about 90,000 square feet — only half of the 180,000 square feet that CPD needs just for its administrative and operations offices in its new HQ.

Furthermore, the old Central Police Station is being actively used by the Cleveland Police Athletic League and offices for the CPD’s Bureau of Community Policing which includes the Neighborhood Watch Program, Auxiliary Police, Citizen’s Police Academy and more. Those and other uses may continue to occupy a substantial part of the old police station.

So officials are looking at renovating the old five-story Central Police Station and, behind it, constructing a new office building of about 120,000 to 150,000 square feet. To benefit from outdoor light and to reduce heating, cooling and lightning expenses, open floors with floorplates no more than 30,000 square feet are optimal. That could mean a four- or five-story new-build office building.

Yet that is only part of the picture when it comes to estimating the size of the new CPD HQ. The largest part of the new HQ is the parking and storage — secure parking for employees and storage/supply of police vehicles, plus public parking. The police garage also requires office space for supportive services. The garage and supportive offices for police vehicles doesn’t need to be next to the HQ, but the city considered it desirable.

The now-favored site for the Cleveland
Police Department headquarters, parking
and storage facilities, which could spread
out onto adjacent city lots (Google/KJP).

If all of the uses were stacked in a structure with 30,000-square-foot floorplates, it would be more than 16 stories tall. In reality, the public parking might be split off in a city-owned parking lot on the west side of East 19th Street. That would allow secure employee parking and police vehicle storage and servicing to be in a multi-level garage next to or below a new, consolidated CPD HQ-storage facility.

The city issued a request for proposals (RFP) in early 2017, hoping that owners of downtown buildings would jump at the chance to land a huge tenant like the CPD. But none could meet the city’s requirements, including:

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  • The CPD HQ and police storage/garage facilities should be located east of the Cuyahoga River, west of East 55th Street and north of I-490;
  • 180,000 square feet of office space for HQ operations;
  • 115,000 square feet of space for storage, garage and supportive offices;
  • Secure parking for 400 passenger cars separate from public parking (equal to a 160,000-square-foot parking garage);
  • Private elevators and secured stairwells if multiple floors in a shared building;
  • Ability to separate staff from the public portions of the operations;
  • Ability to install high-technology and work in an efficient, high-quality, healthy environment;
  • Occupancy by Dec. 31, 2017 or March 31, 2018 at the latest.

The city’s preferences were to find leased space for up to 20 years in an existing or new building near the municipal and county courts as well as the city’s Emergency Operations Center at the Justice Center. It preferred lots of public parking, flexible office floor plans, plus back-up communications, power, water and heating systems.

CPD’s current home is the eight-floor portion of the Justice
Center on Ontario Street. The city wants out of the aging site
and the county wants to consolidate its offices from nearby
buildings into a single, county-owned structure (Google).

None of those could be found in an existing structure or structures. If the city had begun its search 20 years or even 10 years ago, they might have been able to find a suitable building. Not now. To quote Ian Hunter, “All of the good ones are taken.”

And that doesn’t even take into account Department of Homeland Security regulations which affect the design of law enforcement facilities, especially the principal offices, employee parking and storage facilities for a major city’s police force.

Indeed, those regulations were apparently what doomed the city’s signing of a purchase agreement with developer Fred Geis’ GLP Superior LTD that owns the former Plain Dealer building, 1801 Superior Ave. It is located a few hundred feet north of the site the city is favoring now.

Homeland Security regulations reportedly prohibit a police station sharing a building with tenants who are not subject to security screening, or possibly even taking over a building whose former tenants didn’t screen its visitors. The ex-Plain Dealer building is home to the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, the Council of Economic Opportunities for Greater Cleveland, as well as cleveland.com.

The possibility that Homeland Security regulations doomed the ex-Plain Dealer site was buoyed by the fact that city officials refused to discuss the reasons why the city suddenly backed out of the purchase deal without any prior notice. The city planned to invest $60 million to buy, renovate and modify the ex-Plain Dealer property.

So, between the lack of existing downtown structures with enough suitable space and the complications associated with Homeland Security regulations, the city basically has no choice but to build a new or mostly-new CPD HQ.

Fortunately, the city may already have most of the money it needs to afford a new-build, consolidated CPD HQ-storage facility. Consider that the city received $9.25 million from the sale of its old police HQ. It will also save $5.1 million per year by closing the downtown municipal jail and paying the county to house its prisoners.

That $9.25 million can be part of the down payment for financing a CPD HQ-storage facility, with annual payments of $5 million over 20 years, which is what the city is willing to do, per its RFP (noted above).

At least the city has found a site where it can use an already existing, city-owned building — a former police station, no less — and city-owned parking lots to develop its police station of the future. And considering that most of the nearby buildings are pretty short, the new CPD HQ could have a commanding presence on the eastern edge of Cleveland’s central business district.

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