On Monday, November 22, City Council approved a proposal to establish a new, centrally located public safety campus at the intersection of Halton and Mall Connector roads.
The City has an opportunity to purchase an existing 126,000-square-foot building with 550 parking spaces on 6.86 acres, as well as an additional 5.9-acre tract, for $18.9 million. The projected upfit/renovation cost for the building, which was built in the 1990s and renovated in 2014, is $8.1 million. In comparison, the estimated cost to construct a new building is $35 million, not including the land acquisition.
Purchase of the property allows the City to consolidate its Police Administration, Fire Administration and Municipal Court functions, which are currently split among multiple facilities, many of which are aging and in disrepair, with limited space and parking. It would also allow for the sale of the Municipal Court property, located on valuable land at the intersection of North Main and Academy streets, for the highest and best use.
The majority of Police Administration personnel are currently housed at the Law Enforcement Center, located at 4 McGee Street, which was built in 1976 and is also occupied by the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office. According to Chief Howie Thompson, offices meant for one person are currently being used by up to five officers and detectives are working in cubicles placed in the main corridors. “We have outgrown this building, which is in poor condition and has very limited parking and public access,” said Thompson. “We are looking forward to the opportunity to provide a better workspace for our employees and improved service to our citizens.”
Additional Police Administration personnel are housed with the court staff in the Municipal Court building, which was built in 1940 and is small, lacks parking and recently flooded due to a sewer backup. “It's as much about having more space for us as it is about improving the quality of the space," said Judge Matthew Hawley. "We’ve been successful in using the two courtrooms we have here on the property; however, we need a small third courtroom that we can use for a jury panel, sequestration and jury selection.”
The Fire Prevention Bureau is located at City Hall, while other Fire Administration personnel are housed at the Greenville Convention Center, a situation that was made even more challenging by the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s difficult to work on projects and hold staff meetings when we’re in different locations, and the lack of space has made keeping up with PPE for the entire City challenging,” said Interim Fire Chief Brian Horton. “A new facility would put us all in one building and would give us the ability to grow and meet the needs of the City, our firefighters and our community.”
Potential funding sources for the new public safety campus include:
- $3.6 million from the Capital Improvement Program (CIP)
- $4 million from the Neighborhood Infrastructure Bond (NIB)
- $10 million from the General Fund Balance
The remaining $9.4 million would be financed, with an annual debt service of $575,000 - $750,000.
The City has hired an architect to perform a condition assessment and test fit on the building and a consultant to perform a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment. If City Council decides to proceed with the project, the goal is to close on the property by the end of this year and begin renovations next spring/summer.
“This purchase is an investment in law enforcement, public safety and the valued first responders who protect our community,” said City Manager John McDonough. “We have been searching for a quality property that supports current technology needs, has adequate parking, meets security standards and improves working conditions, and while this building does not replace City Hall, it has room for growth and space for City employees who are currently located in aging, cramped, logistically challenging facilities.”
The city is no longer seeking to purchase the Bowater Building. The sale of City Hall is on hold while other options are evaluated. The City will continue to maintain a presence in downtown Greenville.
Image Source: Google, January 2019