Construction on Lawrence’s new $19.5M police headquarters hits halfway point

photo by: Rochelle Valverde

The city's new police headquarters is pictured on March 6, 2020, as the project hits the halfway point.

The city’s new $19.5 million police headquarters is now halfway complete, and police representatives say the project could far exceed original goals to bring more police under one roof.

The project’s halfway point was marked with the placement of the final piece of the structure’s steel framing during a “topping out” ceremony on Friday. City staff, police and city commissioners who have been involved with the project signed the last steel beam, which was ceremoniously topped with an American flag and a small evergreen tree for good fortune.

photo by: Rochelle Valverde

City staff, police and city commissioners who have been involved with the project signed a steel beam that will be the last one added to the structure.

The city expanded the project in the fall, enabling more functions and personnel to move into the building. Police Capt. Anthony Brixius, while providing a tour of the site to the Journal-World on Friday before the ceremony, said that the department hoped to be able to move almost all police and detectives into the building.

“We think that there are some possibilities to get all of our people who are actively responding to calls or doing investigations in this building,” Brixius said. He noted that the headquarters project, which will be constructed in multiple phases, could far exceed the original goals for the first phase.

As originally proposed, the first phase of the project included a significant amount of “shelled” or unfinished space, but city staff recommended that the city finish those spaces during the first phase to save money. In November, the commission voted unanimously to spend an additional $1 million to finish the space for three more police functions at the headquarters, bringing the total project budget to $19.5 million and potentially allowing the headquarters to house up to about 90% of sworn police staff.

The original project budget would have allowed the headquarters to house approximately 66% of all sworn police staff, according to information previously provided to the City Commission. Unspent dollars in the police department’s budget will be used to help finish the space for investigations, administration and the crime lab.

Brixius said that finishing the three additional areas would enable the department to move all of its personnel out of the downtown law enforcement center it currently shares with Douglas County and potentially retain only minimal staffing at the Investigations and Training Center in west Lawrence.

Realizing the latter goal, though, will still require some additional spending. Brixius said that although the additional $1 million finished the space for investigations, administration and the crime lab, it would cost an additional $385,000 to add furniture, fixtures and equipment to those areas so they could be occupied. Once the space was furnished, Brixius said, only five training and administrative staff members would continue to work at the training center, in addition to the new recruits participating in the training academy when it’s in session.

The City Commission must approve the additional spending, and Brixius said the change order request would go to the commission in April. Brixius said that because a recent purchase of police radios cost less than expected, the police department has the additional $385,000 in its budget to furnish the spaces for investigations, administration and the crime lab.

Along the tour, Brixius pointed out various functional advantages of the new building, including a central entrance and break room for all police staff, expanded and better-divided evidence storage, and the crime lab that allows the department to process some evidence instead of sending it to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. There is also a separate public entrance to the building and a reception area that includes additional rooms to give crime victims or others present more privacy.

photo by: Hoefer Wysocki

This rendering shows a design concept for a new Lawrence Police Department headquarters in northwest Lawrence.

5100 Overland Dr, Lawrence, KS 66049

Brixius said moving out of the downtown building didn’t mean response times to the downtown area would be slower. He said the police officers working on patrol were assigned to one of four parts of the city and would typically respond from their patrol areas rather than from the headquarters building.

The headquarters is being built on a portion of a 29-acre parcel of city-owned land at 5100 Overland Drive, which is behind the Walmart near Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. Apart from centralizing personnel, the site will provide room for additional police and public functions.

A new garage on the site will allow the department to move its emergency response vehicles, evidence van and police motorcycles out of the city-owned building on Stone Barn Terrace, according to Brixius. The building was originally a limestone barn, which has been designated a national Underground Railroad site and was most recently a city fire station before it was used for vehicle storage.

The property also contains several acres of city parkland, which will have a 1.25-mile trail that will be open to the public. There are also plans for more park features, though those have not yet been funded.

Municipal Services and Operations Assistant Director Melinda Harger recently told the Journal-World that it was estimated that the headquarters would be complete in December 2020 and police personnel would move into the building in early 2021. Harger said that the facility would be open to the public sometime in February 2021.

photo by: John English

An aerial photograph taken Feb. 22, 2020, shows the ongoing construction of the city’s new $19.5-million police headquarters at 5100 Overland Drive, which is behind the Walmart near Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. It’s estimated the headquarters will be complete in December 2020, and police personnel will move into the building in early 2021, according to Municipal Services and Operations Assistant Director Melinda Harger. Harger said the facility will be open to the public sometime in February 2021.

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