$34M Police HQ Renovations

A resident’s comments.

I am writing to express concerns that should be raised regarding the Police Board’s plans to expand the existing facility on Wyndham Street South. This plan may prove to be somewhat near-sighted and lacking alignment with Corporate and Community goals. In this regard:

1. Plans to intensify the downtown are underway. The site of the existing Police Station can and should ultimately be redeveloped with a building of at least 5-6 storeys, in keeping with intensification goals. To do anything but will result in an underutilized, yet important, parcel in the downtown core. We should all be concerned that the existing old-fashioned building and proposed expansion do not support the longer-term vision that the City espouses and leads.

2. The Armoury property holds more and better potential than its current use. The needs of National Defense could probably be better met by creating an industrial-style facility in a suburban location, like National Defense has done in other Cities. Although not possible due to hierarchy, expropriation for public good involves making the expropriated party whole again. Some of the of the money (for a more functional building together with a land exchange in a business park) currently being sought for the Police expansion could be used to effect such a solution, without setting any unusual precedents.

3. The Armoury site has been identified as holding the potential for a new, larger, City market place. Ownership by the City could allow this to happen for the benefit of the community.

4. The Armoury building could be adapted to meet the Police’s expansion needs, probably for the next decade or two. Based on the $12M it cost to renovate the 30,000 sq. ft. old City Hall into a POA Courthouse, it may be possible to effect a more conservative renovation of the Armoury for a similar or just slightly higher cost. Further, ownership by the City and use by the Police for an interim period until Policing evolves (and perhaps the needs diminish) over time, increase the possibility that the Armoury will become a heritage property that is open and available to the public, generally.

5. The Armoury site is largely underutilized, and could offer significant ground area for weekday parking in the downtown (and market on the weekend).

6. The Police Department’s plans to, somewhat independently, proceed with an expansion on the same site preclude the possibility of a solution that benefits the entire Corporation and the Community as a whole. The acquisition and redevelopment of the Armoury may be a much better solution.

7. The price to expand the existing Police Station seems very high (which may reflect the nature of retrofitting an old fashioned building) given that the new City Hall was built for around $32.5m for more than 160,000 square feet of functional office space.

I realize that pursuing this scenario is not without challenge, uncertainty, and would require a well thought out strategic approach. Organizations everywhere are being encouraged to take risks, be creative, to be innovative, and to come up with great solutions. Rather than taking the current narrow approach, led by a single department or board, this would be a great opportunity to take a truly bold approach towards achieving multiple corporate and community goals.

~~~~~~~~~~~

1. Making an offer to DND to relocate them to a suburban location would have to be contingent on them relocating asap. A City offering to pay (all or part) for a Federal Department to relocate may seem a little strange, but would be compelling. This would be a win for DND as their plans would be advanced, at less cost. This would be a win for the City as it’s plans and goals could be advanced, possibly within the same cost as is currently planned for the expansion. This option was likely never considered or very discarded early because of the somewhat non-intuitive idea of a City paying (all or part) for a Federal Department relocation project. Another factor may have been a departmentally-led rather than corporately-led approach to this project.

2. I realize that all of the various costs and other implications would have to be soundly and objectively considered. The point is that there is a need for “another hard look”.

A couple of examples of things that could have been improved with ‘another hard look’:

Another hard look may have seen a library located in an old Eaton’s store, bringing high volumes of daytime patrons and shoppers through a then ailing mall (instead of a low daytime volume hockey rink that relies heavily on automobile access which now competes with the RiverRun for parking when events conflict).
Another hard look may have established spectacular views in and out of the RiverRun Centre instead of a large and unsightly wall facing the river. (RiverRun is still very nice, but that wall and that river, what an unfortunate waste)
A few things that created “WOW” after ‘another hard look’:

A new museum in an convent on the verge of demolition
A POA Courthouse in a restored heritage former City Hall building
A revised Carden Street precinct and the reflecting pond/skating rink.

The proposed expansion will not create “WOW”. It will create something that meets only the needs of the Police Department (perhaps not an unusual outcome for departmental-led, rather than corporately-led projects). I am suggesting that you consider taking ‘another hard look’ to see if the $34M or thereabouts can be used to create a satisfactory solution for the Police as well as a WOW for the community. JS

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