Designer hired for renovation at police HQ

September 02, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Baltimore officials hired a design team yesterday to develop plans for a $32 million expansion and renovation of the city police headquarters.

Amid some lingering questions, the city's Board of Estimates awarded a $2.6 million contract to a joint venture between RCG Inc. of Baltimore and HOK of Washington, a division of the firm that designed Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who chairs the board, expressed reservations over building a 100,000-square-foot annex adjacent to the headquarters at 601 E. Fayette St. She asked if money could be saved by simply leasing office space while renovating the existing building, which is saddled with heating, ventilation and asbestos problems.

"Are we designing this [annex] as a holding area?" asked Ms. Clarke, who cast the lone dissenting vote.

But David Mitchell, the project coordinator, said the addition is needed to house modern police labs and criminal investigation rooms. He also said the option of leasing space elsewhere during construction was ruled out as too expensive.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who had initially wanted to relocate the central police operations to the vacant Hecht Co. department store at Howard and Lexington streets, asked that the board be kept up to date with the design progress. He promised "tough questions" if the costs prove higher than expected. The mayor originally had pushed for the Hecht Co. site in an attempt to help revitalize the languishing Howard Street retail corridor. But the cost proved prohibitive.

The design team was selected from a field of seven candidates, Mr. Mitchell said. Its contract came under fire yesterday by the president and CEO of Manekin Corp., one of the area's largest real-estate development companies. Manekin had proposed building new headquarters.

"I think this is an exceedingly high fee," said Richard Alter, Manekin's president.

Mr. Mitchell dismissed the criticism, saying the $2.6 million contract was standard because it represented 8 percent of the total budget.

About 900 police officers and civilians work in the central building, which was defective the day it opened two decades ago. Not only was it full of asbestos, but many of the ventilation ducts on the blueprints were never installed. Many workers currently share cramped offices, said Deputy Police Commissioner Michael Zotos.

Plans call for construction to be completed by July 1997. The annex will be built first, then contractors will remove the asbestos and renovate the headquarters.

The city has already earmarked $12 million toward the cost, the ** bulk from a court settlement with the asbestos manufacturer.

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