The new Durham Police HQ is getting more expensive (but we were warned)
Old and In the Way: More on the Carpenter Building and Durham Police HQ

Live blogging Durham City Council's discussion on DPD's HQ

We'll focus on the DPD HQ agenda item, but this is of interest, right off the bat:

1:02: Steve Schewel is asking to put the Jackson Street project, aka, housing near the Durham bus station, on the Sept. 8 agenda.

Diane Catotti: I'd like to hear if that's feasible, the RFP process, and if not, surveying other lots and land in the downtown area. And the steps necessary to subdivide the lot. Those might be interim steps that could keep the process open.

This will be taken up at the end of the meeting.

1:45 p.m.: OK, city staff is teeing up the DPD HQ presentation. Kevin Montgomery is discussing design considerations.

"When we met with you back in June, you charged us to bring back new options and re-examine some things. We met with DAD, Preservation Durham, DDI, plus other city departments and personnel. We took a look at the east-west connector, the frontage along Main Street. Then we looked at the larger context: north is residential, west is governmental, south and east is commercial. We also know looking down the road with what's happened with Hendricks Chevrolet site and light-rail, land uses are going to change. 

"The square footage of the site is roughly 210,000 square feet. [If you're following along, we're on Page 7]. There are other programs currently not located on Chapel Hill Street: K-9 Unit, Traffic Services, Property and Evidence [and more]."

Montgomery continues: "We were also asked to consider the building height. 40,000 square feet need to be located on the ground floor, roughly one-fifth of the entire site. We looked at the building footprint, and in looking at that we looked at multiple iterations of how to stack the site. But the premise is 40,000 square feet has to be on the ground floor for programmatic reasons.

[Translation: There has to be a 40K square foot building footprint regardless of height.]
Montgomery: Next we were asked to look at parking. We went back and did further study, we reduced the number of surface spaces from 85 to 72. We met with the traffic department and all of the streets around the site are two-way. We were able to then incorporate some street parking, but we would have to change the setback line to maintain the two-way traffic that was preferred by the department. Add parking on Elizabeth Street. 

[Yes, please no more one-way streets.]
KM: We tried to reduce the footprint of the parking deck, and looked at the minimum footprint for the staff parking, 485 cars. We decided we can't reduce that number.

[Page 12 now] KM: We looked at the Carpenter Building. Since initial study, we've looked at incorporating the building into the design. It would be about another $3.9 million. It would remove the siding of the building and make it look like it was originally. 

[Page 13]
KM: The building doesn't have to fall into the center of the block. You can choose how to place it on the site.

Deputy City Manager for Operations: There was a desire to explore possibilities to reserve some of the property for future development or expansion of the police operations. The green area is where that could happen.

KM: [Page 14] We heard several considerations. You're about to see schemes, and we evaluated them on the basis of the maximum number of considerations from the community and user groups.

Sorry, I couldn't hear this guy's name, but I think he's from O'Brien/Atkins [Page 15-16]: In these schemes, we looked at opportunities to keep Carpenter, how to address Main Street, etc. 

[Page 17] Two scenarios keeping Carpenter: One preserves space on Main Street for future growth and development. There is some security concerns for future development along Main because of its proximity to DPD. If it's on Ramseur, there is less of a concern. If there was an attack against the HQ, or if there was a bomb in a building next to HQ, it's just a consideration they brought forward.

Deputy City Manager for Operations: Top issues we heard from Durham Area Designers were minimize the impact of the surface parking, move it so it's not adjacent to the county lot. We heard discussion about wrapping the garage, and if we couldn't, minimize its visibility from Main Street. We heard feedback about the building going higher but only if it reduces the footprint. We heard preference for redevelop able space on Main over Ramseur, but we heard both. 

Preservation Durham had one main focus in saving the Carpenter Building.

[DAD and PD have not weighed in on this proposal yet, but it considers their feedback.]

[There are security concerns about the HQ being right on the street. There could be a plaza on Main Street to serve as a buffer. Parking structures also act as buffers.] 

Elizabeth and Main is where the entrance to the building would be. It would start at three stories and then step up to five. 

Scheme 5 has 17 pros: It addresses Main Street, announces entry and addresses security concerns.
Cons: It doesn't save Carpenter, and it doesn't allow for future development on Main.

Diane Catotti on security: The building houses people, the parking garage houses cars, so if something were to blow up ...

It's now almost 2:30 p.m. Council is preparing its questions.
O'Brien/Atkins: Ranking the schemes in terms of pros and cons: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Deputy City Manager for Operations: We tried to catalogue which schemes checked the most boxes, but we didn't weight them. It's Council's prerogative to decide what matters the most. Express to us which of the factors matter the most. All five will work.

Don Moffitt: I want to drill down on activating Main Street, how to do that. 

O'Brien/Atkins: When we say activate, we mean putting functions on that ground level that have eyes on the street, although we're not talking about retail, we're talking about movement. Retail within this building is not an appropriate usage.

Eddie Davis: The price tag of $3.9 million is what it costs to retain Carpenter Chevrolet, an additional cost to the project.

Diane Catotti: In terms of Carpenter, what is your professional opinion of the merit of saving the building and the historic value? 

Kevin Montgomery: We looked at Carpenter with open eyes. It's never been designated as a historical building. It doesn't resemble its original. It's not like saving the American Tobacco Campus. Old doesn't mean historic. 

Mr. Atkins: We come with no point of view on Carpenter. The only thing is we have a contract with you that says we have to come in within budget. Saving Carpenter, there's merit to it in terms of its legacy, but it does have a price tag.

Tom Bonfield: Saving Carpenter and how it integrates into the functionality of building is not perfect, it creates detriments.

KM: The floor heights don't align, for example. You'd have to compromise elsewhere in the project.

Steve Schewel: What are the security concerns?

KM: We have people moving in and out of the deck at all times. There are certain operations such as staging within the deck itself, which could compromise security. And if you bring witnesses in, that could also compromise it. An independent security consultant apprised us of the level of risk.
.... If I was a developer, it wouldn't be my priority to build on because of the shape of the site.

[Indeed, it should have gone over to Fayetteville Street; IMO, this is not a good site for the HQ.]

[We're eagerly awaiting discussion on the cost; we're hearing more about Carpenter, which I'll include in the wrap-up.]

[Ross Wyman from Lend Lease is going to address the cost now. Page 20 for those of you following along at home.]

Lend Lease compared this project to other similar ones constructed over the past five years throughout the country. The figures have been adjusted for geography and time [inflation].  This facility would cost $357 per square foot, compared with $265 in the original proposal.

RW: "Construction cost is about $14.8 million more than the original. At the current timeline right now, starting next summer. The original program was based on 11,000 square feet less. The structured parking has added 86 vehicles from surface parking, which is more expensive. This building will also require deep foundations based on soil conditions at the site. The exterior also has impact- and bullet-resistant glass. It's a mission critical facility. If power goes out for any reason, it has full redundancy."

[Now pages 24-25]

The project could save money by keeping some police functions in their current locations, that saves about $9.6 million to $17 million.

[It's now 3:17 p.m. The projected move-in date for the new HQ is early 2018, about the time this meeting ends.] 

[OK, now we're into the nitty gritty on page 26. There are four funding models. Two of them put the city $5 million to $8 million in the red.  But by saving the $9.6 million, and getting the county to chip in its share of the 911 costs, which is about $3 million, by 2025, the city stays above water on this project, even at the updated price tag. This doesn't include revenue from the property sales, such as the District Substation on Rigsbee, an outpost on Broadway and the current HQ. That could generate $7.8 million, but that's just a guess.]

Don Moffitt: "No money was created here. We just have a spending plan. It still hurts."

Diane Catotti: "I'm not sold on saving the Carpenter Building."

Cora Cole-McFadden: "I don't think we should save it. That money [$3.9 million] could be used for other things, like sidewalks. Could we entertain a motion about saving that building? Should we save it or should we say goodbye?"

Eddie Davis: "I'm leaning toward not saving it, but we don't have to decide it today."

Looks like the five schemes will go to Durham Area Designers and DDI for additional feedback, then the plan will go on the Sept. 8 general business agenda.

Steve Schewel is saying that on Sept. 8 to ask administration for a process for the Durham Station process to meet the 9 percent tax credit deadline in January. "It may well be we may not do it, that the Durham Housing Authority deal comes through and we support that. We may support two. We would ask staff to bring us something to talk about. To direct staff to develop an RFP, an open proposal that includes affordable housing."

Don Moffitt: "We need to have a sense of urgency."

Diane Catotti: "I'm 100 percent for having applications for 9 percent tax credit. I'm not comfortable to be too prescriptive, telling staff we have to have this wrapped up in 90 days. Are there pieces that could come forward before the 24th? I'm all for keeping it moving, but we need to make room for full discussion."

[So it's going on the Sept. 8 agenda Sept. 10 work session agenda for discussion. And then there will be a follow up about the RFP on Sept. 24. ]



so... TLDR is ...
The site is not a good site for a Police HQ because of soils, security, and existing buildings. It's going to cost more than $100/sqft additional than budgeted (which means we'll end up at $600/sqft pricetag once it's actually built) and there's the issue about transit/future light rail line creating dense development right around it which is a security concern.

Here's an idea.

Don't put the police station on Main St next to the Health Department. Why don't you develop affordable housing in that whole block and put the police station out on a brownfield somewhere.

Dick Ford

Natalie has it right. Don't put a government utility in a prime downtown location. Durham has done a magnificent job creating value in downtown. The Police HQ should go in an area that can't attract private development. And then the DPD can have the building they want/need.

Bad enough we put the jail and courthouse beside gems like DPAC, the Bulls and ATC. Let's not make this mistake a third time.

Jonathan Jones

The jail predates DPAC and the Bulls stadium near American Tobacco. The courthouse was placed adjacent to it to minimize security risks, as well as costs, in transport and designed to mask the jail as one approaches from the south.

That said, any option that involves destruction of the Carpenter Building should be seen as absolutely unacceptable. If costs are escalating at that site, council should reconsider the location.


I've also been wondering about the wisdom of putting a big government building on this site, or any site in proximity of the now booming downtown, where the potential for development that would bring in tax dollars (rather than cost tax dollars) seems pretty good.

The city owns land a little further out - for example the quite large Street Maintenance site on Martin Luther King Boulevard. Why not put the HQ someplace like that? Seems like it would eliminate many of the problems of the Main Street site, and probably be much lower cost.

I thought the same thing about the prison back in the day. Wouldn't it have been better if that had been on, say, the same site as the County Stadium, rather than right in downtown?

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