LJWorld.com weblogs Town Talk

Lawrence wants property to house multimillion dollar police headquarters


News of a police search usually causes my wife to start confessing to a multitude of unpaid parking tickets. She'll be happy to know this is a different sort of police search.

City officials are getting more serious about finding a location for what could be a new $20 million to $25 million police headquarters. The city is inviting area landowners to express an interest in selling property to the city for the headquarters.

City Hall officials have set a deadline of 5 p.m. Sept. 30 for landowners to submit proposals to the city. Among the factors the city will consider in selecting a site are:

• Size. The city wants 12 to 15 acres.

• Access to other public facilities. Specifically, the city would like a location with easy access to the county jail, the courthouse, municipal court, City Hall, and the city's vehicle maintenance and fueling facilities.

• Costs to install infrastructure such as streets, storm water improvements and public utilities.

• Compatibility with other nearby uses.

The city has included $1.5 million in its 2014 budget to purchase a site and do preliminary design work. City commissioners, however, still haven't tackled the big question of how they would pay for the $20 million or more in construction costs. In the past, city staff members have presented scenarios where a new sales tax or a property tax increase could be used.

As for a leading location for the facility, your guess is probably as good as mine. Several years ago when the idea of a police headquarters was mentioned, I know some city officials were eying undeveloped ground near the headquarters for the city's fire department near 19th and Iowa streets. I don't know if that idea is still in play, but there is still undeveloped property near the fire station.

There's also a lot of undeveloped property near the Douglas County Jail. But that would place the police force on the far eastern edge of the city, and I'm not sure that's what the city is looking for. City officials already have indicated that being on the edge of the city may not be ideal from an efficiency standpoint. The city owns property on the far western edge of the city, near the new interchange for Bob Billings Parkway and the South Lawrence Trafficway. But City Manager David Corliss has said he doesn't view that as a likely location for a police headquarters.

Other than the county jail, most of what the city wants to be close to — municipal court, City Hall, the courthouse, the city fueling station at 11th and Haskell — is in the vicinity of downtown. In some ways, a downtown site would be the most interesting one to watch, but it also is the hardest one to picture. Finding a site of 12 to 15 acres in the downtown area could be a challenge.

The city could perhaps get by with less property if it built a multi-story building with a parking garage, on a site such as the parking lot that currently serves the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center at 11th and Massachusetts. But I haven't heard that idea get much traction. There also is significant space available in the former Riverfront Mall building at Sixth and New Hampshire. But I've heard indications that the Police Department would like to have a newly constructed building that is designed specifically for police use, rather than a retrofitted facility. (Full disclosure: Members of the Simons family, which owns the Journal-World and LJWorld.com, are owners of the former Riverfront Mall building.)

I suppose a dark horse possibility is that the city decides to do some rearranging of its current facilities. For example, would the city try to find a new home for its trash trucks at 11th and Haskell and use that site for a police headquarters? I've haven't heard that specifically, but certainly the idea of a new city public works facility has come up in past years.

As I said earlier, it's all a guessing game at this point. I'm sure there are a multitude of other locations around the city that I'm not thinking of. Locations for a police facility are probably like unpaid parking tickets at my house — once you start looking for them, you end up with more than you want.


Sue McDaniel 4 years, 8 months ago

It is always about a new building, several good suggestions for vacant places above, I would like new also but that isn't happening on MY budget!!!!!

Hooligan_016 4 years, 8 months ago

I saw someone comment before that there's plenty of room out there at the old Sears building, haha. It would seem a new facility is going to be hard to locate with their given parameters. We always want new, but maybe a full retrofitted building would be in the best interests of both the police and the community.

Robert Schehrer 4 years, 8 months ago

That's what the City of Topeka did. They took over the closed Wards Building at the north end of downtown.

Bob Forer 4 years, 8 months ago

Good point. And a lot cheaper than building new.

nick_s 4 years, 8 months ago

What about the property that was already purchased for a new building? I am not sure this is fact, however in previous articles regarding this matter commenters were very adamant that the city has already purchased land in previous years expressedly for this reason. Chad or LJ, can you report/confirm this?

Chad Lawhorn 4 years, 8 months ago

I think when people refer to that, they are referring to the property near the SLT and Bob Billings that is referenced in the article. I'm not sure it was ever purchased to be the site of a police headquarters building. Instead, a site for a police substation or perhaps another fire station is how I remember it. The city isn't interested in building a police substation anymore. Thanks, Chad.

mdlund0 4 years, 8 months ago

That's curious, isn't it? Will the city lose interest in this new police building before or after it's built? We're going to build a new police building so that we can house all of the police in one spot... I'd bet we'll be looking at a police request for a substation in west Lawrence fewer than 5 years after this new monstrosity is built.

jimmyjms 4 years, 8 months ago

By what metric is the City of Lawrence claiming that this is a necessary expenditure?

absolutelyridiculous 4 years, 8 months ago

How about South Park? Since we are being ridiculous, why not.

Bob Forer 4 years, 8 months ago

If you combine the County Law Enforcement Parking lot with some of south Park, there might be enough space if you build a parking garage. But parking garages are expensive. The location would be ideal.

Just a trial balloon. I really don't know much about space needs, or how something is built.

Terri Ferguson 4 years, 8 months ago

How about the unused area where Western Sizzlin' and Ken's Pizza and Dr. Kunc's office was? That is the ugly corner of Iowa and 27th.

Bursting 4 years, 8 months ago

Put it on Redbud Lane, or I love the Sears idea. But seriously folks, this shouldn't be happening at all. We don't have enough crime to justify this senseless spending.

How bout you give the money to our school system instead?

justforfun 4 years, 8 months ago

I've got plenty of land to give the city. All I want in return is to lease it back to the city and name it " Rock Chalk Police Park" Hang on a a second Thomas Fritzel is returning my phone call on the "how to screw the city" hotline.

3up3down 4 years, 8 months ago

What is wrong with having two precincts? One is out of the old Judicial and Law Enforcement Center at 111 E11th and the other is the current location at 15th and Wakarusa. Other cities have their deparments divided into jurisdictional areas, why can't we? We can then spend all that saved money on things like round-a-bouts, speed humps, and other frivolous things instead of the rapidly decaying infra structure. Priorities there City fathers, priorities!!!

mdlund0 4 years, 8 months ago

Don't worry, it'll happen. They just need to get a new building, so they can move out of their old buildings into one location... then they can request another new building because they don't have enough space.

oldbaldguy 4 years, 8 months ago

don't forget islands in the middle of narrow roads along with bike paths.

jayhawks911 4 years, 8 months ago

How about tear down the antiquated fire station downtown and build a multistory police headquarters facility there. Build a new fire station that can house some of the newer fire trucks that no longer fit in the 1950's building. A new Fire House over near the riverfront area would give better access to all of downtown and North Lawrence.

3up3down 4 years, 8 months ago

Oh heaven forbid that we tear something down that could be of historical value. agh!

kernal 4 years, 8 months ago

Good thought, but that space is too small. It's not just the fire station that is there, but also Douglas County Ambulance. Speaking of which, I wonder how long it will be before DCA needs more space. They're kind of cramped in there.

optimist 4 years, 8 months ago

If it is going to be done then a new building makes the only sense. The use is too unique to try to retrofit it into an existing structure. As for location, I believe building it on the current site's parking lot makes the most sense. Then tear down the old building once completed and turn it into parking. What else is the old facility going to be good for?

Melissa Isaacs 4 years, 8 months ago

What do police do in a building that is so "unique" that it can't be accommodated in a retrofitted structure? I imagine they mostly need office space, maybe some lab space, secure storage, rooms for meetings and interrogations, etc. There is a place for shooting guns in the community building downtown, so even that function can be shoehorned into an existing space.

irvan moore 4 years, 8 months ago

I kinda like the corner at 19th and Haskell

Stephanie Hull 4 years, 8 months ago

Hadn't thought of that, but it's a really good idea -- good location between the jail and the courthouse, and it would clean up a problematic area.

smileydog 4 years, 8 months ago

Why must everything be downtown? Lawrence is growing west and will continue to do so. Also, how are we to pay for this? I was driving down Clinton Parkway and some nimrod cop was doing 30 in the passing lane in a posted 45 mph speed zone. Of course all the idiot drivers around him wouldn't pass him. I assume it was a rookie cop trying to show he was boss. Do rookies get training on being considerate, and wouldn't their psychological testing reveal who was on a power trip? It's probably the heat because I'm a very mellow fellow, but this really ticked me off.

sentinel4820 4 years, 8 months ago


Ever thought that the cop was looking for a responding to a call, looking for someone, or watching for a suspect vehicle passing by? Grow up..Glad the cop got you to slow down!!!

smileydog 4 years, 8 months ago

I don't buy your excuse. There wasn't anyone in the oncoming traffic lane and it is a raised median for a high center cross over. The posted speed limit is 45. That is the legal speed limit. The passing lane is meant for passing, not driving 30 to hold up a huge line of cars.

Food_for_Thought 4 years, 8 months ago

Your ignorance literally made me belt out loud in a chuckle. It amazes me how childish people are. Really? You truly think that it was some rookie cop on a power trip? Get real. Not everyone thinks like you do. If you had any knowledge of law enforcement (or common sense), you'd know that police officers typically stick to the inside lane (or "passing" lane as you called it) because if there was an emergency or some other issue/incident that police officer saw on the other side of the street, he/she would be able to turn around/access anything on the other side of the road, rather than cut people off as he/she would have to shoot across two (or more) lanes of traffic.

I have to wonder...if this were a fire truck, ambulance, or garbage truck doing 30 in a 45, would you be crying about it on here? Would you be claiming it was a firefighter/EMT/trash collector "showing everyone he was boss"? Is it the officer's fault that none of the other motorists would pass him/her? There is no law that prohibits you from passing a police car...

smileydog 4 years, 8 months ago

I'll keep your comment in mind when I have some police officer tailgating me with their high beams on blinding me some night - that they're just doing their job and aren't power tripping.

Curtis Lange 4 years, 8 months ago

There is no such thing as a 'passing lane' or 'driving lane' on city streets. That rule only applies to highways.

Jennifer Harrison 4 years, 8 months ago

Rather than make an uneducated comment, I read the facilities study made back in 2012. http://www.lawrenceks.org/assets/agendas/ss/2012/05-01-12/police_facility_need_assessment_study.pdf

The police have made their case and I support a new facility. It would appear that either Ron Olin or Mike Wildgen dropped the ball when the police sub-station was acquired. That was the time to build a new facility. From an operational standpoint, It makes no sense to me to have a police station at 11th/Mass; sub-station at Bob Billings/Wakarusa; Municipal Court at 10th/New Hampshire; Parking-Animal Control in the 900bl New Hampshire; and evidence storage at 11th/Mass-15th/Maryland-and the Do Co Public Works.

My top three locations would be:

1) The most logistical choice would be the Bob Billings and Kasold area. See if the city can work something out with KU for 10 acres of land. It is centrally located, has great public access, and the land could be acquired for less money (maybe). I would propose a new police facility and municipal court together like they did in Olathe. The city currently rents space for municipal court at 10th/New Hampshire.

2) The next logical choice would choice would be the 4-5 acre plot at 19th/Iowa St with a parking garage, a couple of levels for police vehicles and a couple levels for public use. Put a three-story facility there, one for patrol operations, one for investigations, and one for specialty squads. This does not address getting municipal court close to the police officers.

3) And lastly, I like the NE corner of 27th/Iowa. Great location, great public access, but the price will probably alleviate any chance of getting this property. In the absence of 27th/Iowa, I like the idea of the old Post Office location at 7th/Vermont. I dont know the status of the government's plan to build a new facility but I had read of some interest in the past. Great location, easy access, and plenty of space.

I would like to have some additional information on the existing sites. What was the purchase price of the west sub-station, including all of the repairs to "retrofit" it into a police station? What is the annual operating cost of the sub-station and LEC station, individually? What would the operating cost of the new police facility be?

Kyle Chandler 4 years, 8 months ago


Waste of time and money!

Who needs crime when we can manufacture it!

Gotta stay 'employed' just like the military.


skinny 4 years, 8 months ago

I think the old Sears building would be a great place to house the Police Dept. and City offices!

usesomesense 4 years, 8 months ago

Our law enforcement facilities growth rate has far exceeded our population a crime statistics growth rate already. Before the 'new' (not so new anymore) jail was built the jail was inside the law enforcement building at 11th and Rhode Island. The new jail not only houses the jail that was in there but all the jail staffing as well. Additionally the facility at Bob Billings and Wakarusa is quite large. Realistically if they build a larger station within the next decade they'll be looking to have other precinct buildings to show presence in other parts of the city anyway.

richfree 4 years, 8 months ago

Why not within walking distance of the Courthouse... due east of the current facility. The old neighborhoods have seen better days. One square block is all that would be necessary. East Lawrence Neighborhood Associations should welcome such an improvement.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

The cost of more crime that comes with growth is quite expensive. Police States demand lots of tax dollars.

As the town grows so grows the criminal activity. As this drive for more police space demonstrates.

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