The city council of University City is reviewing options for a new police department facility.
During a Sept. 9 discussion session, the council heard from representatives from architecture firms Trivers and HOK. The firms, along with the city’s police and public works departments, recently performed a facility assessment and feasibility study of the city hall annex building.
The annex, which is connected to city hall at 6801 Delmar at the western edge of the Loop, served as police headquarters until the department moved out several years ago due to numerous health and safety issues with the building. Police currently work out of a headquarters at 601 Trinity Ave.
Amy Gilbertson, a principal with Trivers, presented three options for the annex to the council. The first, which Trivers is recommending, is to renovate the annex and open a police substation, if needed, elsewhere in the city. That option, the cheapest, has a projected cost of $14,627,088.
The second option, which would also involve renovating the annex and building a substation, has a projected cost of $15,873,564.
The third option is to construct a new police building at a projected cost of $18,593,467.
Gilbertson said Trivers is recommending the first option because it would preserve a historic building that is currently underutilized. It would be cost effective and would keep the police department in the same general area.
Councilman Stacy Clay described the eventual decision as a “generational one” and asked if the potential cost of maintaining two buildings — the annex and a substation — was something the city could handle as “an inner-ring suburban area with a declining population.”
City Manager Greg Rose acknowledged a drop in population over the years — something attested to in school district enrollment figures.
“We (the city) are not losing crime ... we have lost population since the 1960s but we are asking the department to do more. They are our first line of defense and they need an adequate facility,” Rose said.
Councilman Bwayne Smotherson, who represents Ward 3 with Clay, also expressed concern about the building and the department’s future.
“I agree with Stacy. This is a generational decision and I am hoping the council does not consider this plan. The problem I have is I don’t see our police force growing in that annex,” Smotherson said. “They are probably the best police force in St. Louis County and it is almost an insult to them. They need a new state of the art facility,” Smotherson said.
Councilman Paulette Carr disagreed, in part, saying that she liked the idea of trying to preserve and use an older building that is part of the city’s historic civic plaza that also includes city hall.
Whatever the council decides, it will be some time before that decision is made.
Rose said the next step will be for the police department to conduct a space needs study, something that other city departments will be doing as well. In the next 30 days he expects to either send out a request for proposals for the study or contract with Trivers to conduct the study. A space study will take four to eight months.
The police moved out of the building due to a number of issues including asbestos, mold and lead. During the discussion session, the council heard that the annex has approximately 10,000 square feet of floor tile and 28,000 square feet of drywall with asbestos.
The department has been operating since 2016 from a temporary modular facility set up in a parking lot behind the annex. The annex building was built between 1906 and 1909 and the city used it beginning in the early 1930s.