Architects for the city are working on plans that could put the Terre Haute Police Department in the Tribune-Star building on South Seventh Street a move Mayor Duke Bennett says could save the city millions and put officers in a new home sooner.
Bennett said RQAW, a Fishers-based architectural and engineering firm, is working on a preliminary plan to incorporate previous plans into the Tribune-Star building’s layout.
The city would look to use funds from its Central Business District (downtown) tax increment financing district to pay for the lease and build-out, around $7 to $8 million total.
To use TIF monies, the city would have to seek the approval of the Terre Haute Redevelopment Commission. With design and a deal still pending, no timeline has been established for when that request might come.
If approved by the Redevelopment Commission, a deal — if one is struck — would then go to the City Council.
The city has been looking for a new home for its police department for years. The department’s move in 2004 into a former bank complex was never intended to be permanent. Parts of the facility are believed to be 100 years old.
The city initially rented the building on Wabash Avenue between 12th and 13th streets, then purchased it and adjoining land in 2011 for $100,000.
Most recent talk about a new police station centered around building at the current location, but Bennett said the city has remained open to other options.
“We found out … the current Tribune-Star building [at 222 S. Seventh St.] would be vacated at the end of this year,” Bennett said. “Garmong — who we have under contact to be our construction manager for a police station — reached out to us and confirmed that it would be available, and we had a few discussions over the past two months regarding the consideration of it possibly becoming the new police station.”
The mayor, Police Chief Shawn Keen and several other officers, city staff and Garmong officials toured the building Oct. 28.
“We found that the building was in great condition, in a great location and could easily be adapted to meet our needs,” Bennett said of the tour.
The move would seemingly check all the boxes, Bennett said.
It’s centrally located, offers the needed space, would likely cost significantly less than new construction, and it would be ready roughly a year sooner than it would take should the city build new.
“We hope to get a more detailed estimate soon, but preliminary assessments are estimating a potential savings of $2 to $3 million — versus new construction costs — depending on total build-out required,” Bennett said. “And it would likely speed up the occupancy timeline by 12 months.”
Bennett said earlier this year that new construction behind the current police station would cost around $10 million for 35,000 square feet of space. The Tribune-Star building is roughly 45,000 square feet.
The Tribune-Star is moving the editorial, circulation and advertising offices to The Meadows Shopping Center later this year. Garmong owns the building that was built for the newspaper in 1997.
Bennett said architects still need to determine what work needs to be done for the Seventh Street building to function as a police station and how much that work might cost. Then, the mayor said, the city would have to reach a deal with Garmong before seeking funds for the project.
The city has about $1 million in its current police station site, including purchase cost, design and utility relocation. The city initially rented the building but purchased it and adjoining land in 2011 for $100,000.
Bennett earlier this year said “constructing the new police station at the existing city-owned site will ensure we don’t lose any of our significant investment so far, and the central location will best serve the citizens of Terre Haute.”
But after touring the Tribune-Star building, Bennett says the city wouldn’t stand to lose much after all.
“We would not lose our investment in design work — but would have some small additional cost to modify the plans — and we could recover our investment in the original property purchase and utility relocation by selling the existing property,” he said.
The police came close to getting a new home in 2015 when a design was commissioned and financing approved by the City Council and Redevelopment Commission. However, the city faced a significant budget deficit at the time, and the project did not proceed. Bids then were between $6.5 million and $7.2 million.
Reporter Alex Modesitt can be reached at 812-231-4232 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TribStarAlex.