CLEVELAND — Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration has selected and proposed its preferred location for a new headquarters for the Cleveland Division of Police. Top city officials outlined the preferred site, a 13-acre swath of mostly city-controlled land off of East 75th Street and the soon-to-be-built Opportunity Corridor for the future sprawling police campus.
The proposed location, which sits in the Kinsman-Union neighborhood, would be located in the police department’s Fourth District, the largest and most active district in the city. The proposed headquarters would signify a significant investment in one of the locations that make up Jackson’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative.
Members of Jackson’s cabinet, Chief Calvin Williams and Public Safety Director Michael McGrath fielded questions from members of the City Council’s Safety Committee for two hours Thursday afternoon. During the hearing, city officials explained the site ranked favorably in several key areas, including its proximity to public transportation, the level of public access, the size and availability of needed land, as well as the possibility of future expansion.
“The main thing that this location offers to the division for a police headquarters is the acreage that is available. It’s a clean slate,” said Williams. “All the programming that we were requesting and in need for 1801 Superior we can do here and more.”
The new proposed location comes roughly a year after the city’s tentative deal to acquire Plain Dealer Plaza at 1801 Superior Ave. fell apart at the last minute. The deal reportedly quickly disintegrated because of the leases held by two longtime tenants of the building.
City Finance Director Sharon Dumas said the administration was excited about the deal to acquire 1801 Superior Ave. but was forced to seek other options quickly. As part of the year-long process, the site selection committee considered more than two dozen sites that were initially identified, as well as five new sites that recently were considered.
“Because we have the situation that we had with our first selection and we have currently our public safety and police division in a rented facility, there was a need for us to try to resolve this as quickly as we possibly could,” Dumas said.
In October 2018, the city cemented a deal with Cuyahoga County that included the city selling its current police headquarters at the Justice Center to the county for $9.24 million. Under that deal, the city also leased the building back from the county for up to $2.8 million, which includes maintenance, utilities and parking, for one year with three additional one year options. For the past 13 months, the city has been leasing the building that it once owned with a projected completion of the new headquarters still more than two years away.
Under the terms of the city’s lease with the county on the existing headquarters, the city will pay up to $7,845 per day.
“Given that our lease is up in 2022, it is our intent to try to be very efficient and try to shorten what is normally a long process into something that is a bit more efficient,” Dumas said.
Dumas told City Council that the administration hopes to begin construction mid-2021 with substantial completion coming in 2022.
The new CPD headquarters will be designed in a way that it will resemble a public safety campus instead of standalone building. The campus will be comprised of a significant number of the division’s units, including the specialty traffic units, SWAT vehicle storage, new evidence and storage rooms, as well as the real time crime center. Command staff will also be housed at the new headquarters and there will be space available for the police academy, officials said.
Currently, the divisions assets are spread across multiple different facilities downtown and across the city. Housing most of the divisions assets under one roof or on one campus will lead to greater communication and efficiency, city officials said.
“We’re excited bout this. We’re excited about the project. It will be the largest project that the city has done in decades,” Dumas said.
The cost of the project remains unknown until all the design and environmental remediation work is complete. The proposed site does not appear to have been the home of any major industry in recent memory. Instead, the area was largely comprised of single family homes that have long since been demolished. City officials said that should reduce the amount of money needed to remediate and prepare the soil for construction.
As far as the location is concerned, its proximity to Opportunity Corridor — a boulevard-style street that will connect I-490 to University Circle — could spur additional development, city officials said. More than 600 people are expected to work at the new headquarters, which is also expected to house public meeting spaces, community space as well as the police museum.
Although the proposed site for the new headquarters is about four miles away from downtown and the current Justice Center, Councilman Blaine Griffin (Ward 6) said its not uncommon, pointing to the fact that Detroit’s public safety buildings are located away from the downtown business districts.
“This is a very good opportunity to try to invest in an area where I would hope that we could build a housing market and other things for the officers and the people that would live in that community,” Councilman Griffin said.
Much of the conversation at the Safety Committee meeting centered around the future of the county-owned Justice Center. County administration is in the middle of a $1.4 study of the aging Justice Center, which will likely determine whether the county renovates the existing structure or builds a new campus. If the county opts to build a new justice center complex, city council members remained hopeful that it would be located within close proximity to the new police headquarters.