Salem Community Vision has analyzed the four sites that were selected by a City Council subcommittee last month as the best possible locations for a new police facility.
One by one, they posted "reviews" of each site on the Salem Community Vision Facebook page. Below I've shared the analyses all together -- putting the Clear Winner first.
This is the location known as the O'Brien site, where several car dealerships used to be on the east side of Commercial just north of downtown. It was by far the highest ranked site using criteria developed by consultants and approved by the council subcommittee.
Yet as I noted in my previous post about police facility planning, the Mayor and several city council members seem to have the hots for a site that didn't make the top three locations recommended by the consultants.
The most interesting part of tonight's meeting was the selection of four possible sites where a new 150,000 sq. ft. police facility could be located.
The consultants were asked to pick three sites, but Mayor Peterson was so enamored with the block south of the Library, she agreed to pay the consultants more money to have them conduct a detailed site analysis of that location -- which didn't make the top three.
Back in December I asked City staff to tell me how much money the additional site analysis for the Commercial & Leslie Block is costing taxpayers. I've been promised that I'll get this information before a City Council work session about the proposed police facility locations -- which is tomorrow, January 21, 5:30 pm, Anderson Room in the Library.
I'll share this info once I get it.
Read on for the brief cogent analyses by Salem Community Vision of how each site would work for a new police facility. Again, I start with the Winner, then list the Also-Rans.
THE O'BRIEN SITE IS A WINNER
The Police Facility Council Subcommittee asked their Chicago architects to evaluate every feasible site for a new police facility in Salem. They evaluated 30 of them using a numerical assessment based on solid criteria. So far so good. Site 13 (also known as the O'Brien site) was the clear winner, scoring 129 points (see picture below).
Unfortunately, the O'Brien site was not the favorite of Mayor Peterson, who said so at the last Subcommittee meeting. So instead of selecting the highest ranked site, the Subcommittee asked their expensive Chicago architects to do preliminary designs for the top four sites (the others' scores were 100.5, 106, and 97 — the Mayor's preferred site)
So we are paying for four designs instead of one.
Salem Community Vision Steering Committee member Geoff James, who is a long-time architect in Salem, prepared the sketch above to show how nicely the O'Brien site would accommodate a 75,000 square foot police station. There would even be room for a records center and a new municipal court and public meeting room. We believe all this could be built for around $30 million.
We hope that when the City Council holds their work session next Thursday night that they will focus on the O'Brien site and that they will reject the idea of a supersized 150,000 square foot police facility in favor of a right-sized and affordable new police facility like the one Geoff James has proposed.
The City is paying a Chicago architect to do preliminary designs of a new police facility on four different sites that a City Council subcommittee has selected.
Site 1, also called Windows to the West, is the only one of the three mostly owned by the City. That might seem like a plus, from a cost standpoint, but as noted in the architect's presentation above, this site has a "high development cost" because of its small size. So even if you don't have to spend as much money on the site, fitting a building with parking for 200-300 police vehicles on this site would be very expensive. The parking would involve a multi-story parking facility that costs about $30,000 per parking space.
Other problems with this site include the fact that an established business on the north side reportedly does not want to move, and to locate a police facility on a busy one-way arterial that is congested at rush hour is not ideal.
The Mayor seems to like Windows to the West because it fits her vision of an expanded Civic Center and would not take as much private property off the tax rolls, but we think it's a waste of money to pay a Chicago architect to design a building on the site that has so many obvious drawbacks. Expect the cost estimate for a new police facility on this site to be an eye-popper.
As we reported a few days ago, the City is paying big bucks to a Chicago architect to do preliminary designs of a new police facility on four different sites that a City Council subcommittee has selected from 30 possible sites.
Here is the second one, Site 2. Unfortunately, it has more issues than Site 1 that we posted on a few days ago. It is slightly smaller, which means, like Site 1, it would require an expensive multistory police facility and a multistory parking facility. It also slopes rather dramatically from Leslie Street down to Mission, which might create other expensive design challenges.
Unlike Site 1, Site 2 is not mostly owned by the city and would have to be purchased from several different property owners, which could pose some difficulties if they don't want to sell.
Building a police facility on Site 2 would also be bad news for Salem Public Library users. To create more room for the police facility, the plan below shows that Leslie Street, which is how most people enter and exit the library parking garage, would be closed. That might leave the only library entrance on Liberty Street. Also, there is talk of using the library parking garage for the police facility. Can you imagine young families coming to the library and dodging cop cars on their way out of the parking garage?
Site 2 is bad news. We say fuggetaboutit!
This is so wasteful from several angles. First, Salem voters will never, ever, raise their property taxes to build a supersized police facility of 150,000 square feet. The police are only in about 50,000 square feet now. The subcommittee claims they are just planning for the future, but that's foolishness. No business would do that. They would build a modestly larger facility now on a site that has room for expansion in the future.
The other way this is wasteful is that this site is a very poor candidate for a police facility to begin with. It's too big — about an acre and a half larger than 4 acres that was the maximum size lot recommended by the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Task Force. It also abuts the terrific mixed use development we has been built recently just to the north on Broadway (Salem Cinema, Christos, etc.). This site would lend itself to more of that, not a huge campus with an oversized police facility. Even the Mayor and Councilor Dickey agree with us on that!