Police headquarters will be refurbished Relocating ruled out because of cost BALTIMORE CITY

April 30, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

Baltimore has decided to renovate and expand its Polic Department headquarters rather than relocate the central operations, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke announced yesterday.

The construction of an annex adjacent to the headquarters and renovation of the existing building at 601 E. Fayette St. would take two years to complete and cost $37 million, the mayor said.

That compares with $47 million it would have cost to move the headquarters to the vacant Hecht Co. department store at Howard and Lexington streets and $57 million to construct a new building on another site, he said.

Mr. Schmoke said cost was the major factor in the decision on what to do about the 20-year-old building, which is plagued by heating, ventilation and asbestos problems, as well as cramped, inefficient work areas.

"It came down to what could we really afford," the mayor said.

He said he originally had pushed for the Hecht Co. site as a way to give a "shot in the arm" to the troubled Howard Street retail corridor. But he said that "when the costs came back, it was very clear that we could not afford to do that."

The head of a local business group said he was dismayed by the decision not to relocate headquarters to Howard Street.

About 900 officers and civilian workers are assigned to headquarters, where the communications, crime labs and special operations units are housed.

"It comes as quite a disappointment to us. We're not happy," said Milt Rosenbaum, president of Market Center Merchants Association and owner of Hosiery World at 211 W. Saratoga St.

"We need something in this area to bring it back to what it was in days gone by," he added.

During a news briefing yesterday, Mr. Schmoke said the quasi-public Baltimore Development Corp. would pay "concerted attention" to attract development to the corridor.

"I'm hoping we'll be able to regroup and bring more life into that historically important area," the mayor said.

The new plan calls for constructing a 90,000-square-foot annex on vacant property just east of the headquarters building at the corner of Fayette and President streets, he said.

That would be followed by a "top to bottom renovation of the existing building," the mayor said, including removing asbestos, upgrading the heating and ventilation system and restructuring interior space.

The annex would cost $12 million, and the renovations $25 million, Mr. Schmoke said.

The city has already earmarked$12 million toward the cost of the project, including $8 million from a court settlement with the asbestos manufacturer and another $4 million from the sale of part of the old Colts' training complex in Owings Mills to Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

L The remainder of the money would be raised by issuing bonds.

Mr. Schmoke said the city was examining proposals from two developers for a "sale-lease back" option on the new building, which, if approved, could shorten the timetable for completion.

The city had examined several sites, including the old Montgomery Ward store on Monroe Street in South Baltimore, but rejected them, the mayor said.

One problem with the Hecht Co. site was that the building itself was too small to meet the Police Department's needs. Also, neighboring properties would have had to be bought, boosting the cost, the mayor said.

The Police Department needs additional space in its headquarters because of "a lot of things we didn't foresee" since the existing building was designed in the 1960s, said Michael C. Zotos, the department's deputy commissioner for the the services bureau.

Among them are the proliferation of guns, which requires a larger firearms examining room, and larger laboratories to do drug analysis, he said.

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