Harlem officials are looking to redesign the city's main intersection by renovating a former commercial building into the city's new Public Safety headquarters.
Since 2003, city officials have considered purchasing the property at 110 W. Milledgeville, at the intersection with North Louisville Street, from Mayor Bobby Culpepper.
"That is the busiest intersection in Harlem," said Assistant City Manager Jason Rizner. "With this project, we have a very unique opportunity to redefine that intersection. We're working hard to get it right and have a renovation and a new addition that is consistent with the character of the town."
In the early 2000s, city officials noticed that the Harlem Department of Public Safety was outgrowing the current building on North Louisville Street, and that the city's main fire station sat too close to the railroad tracks.
Since then, officials have discussed buying the property on which a farm equipment business has operated for more than 10 years. The details of the sale are being worked out and the sale has not yet been finalized.
The business started moving out about a month ago, Rizner said.
Culpepper, who has recused himself from any discussion of the property because he is a city official, said his family has owned the property for about 60 years. He took over the unexpired mayoral term of county Commissioner Scott Dean in 2008.
Relocating the fire trucks and the construction of a new Public Safety headquarters are part of the city's comprehensive plan.
"I think it is something the people around here have needed for years," said Harlem Public Safety Chief Jesse Bowman. "I think it is going to be a great thing for the city of Harlem and all the residents here. When it is complete and we're in it, everybody here will like it."
The plans include renovating and adding to the existing building, which includes vehicle bays. It will include larger Public Safety spaces, a lobby, a separate area for the communications staff, and a new courtroom with an office for the judge. The new building also will be equipped with several new safety features, including a secure sally port entrance for prisoners and a video surveillance system, Bowman said.
Rizner said architects are working on the design of the new building. Nothing is finalized, but Rizner said he knows the plans call for a lot more space, including parking, that will accommodate future needs.
"The whole facility has been designed with what we need now and will service what we need in the future," Rizner said. "It will allow for future growth."
Once plans are complete, city officials will go through a lengthy process to "qualify" potential contractors. Qualification questionnaires from contractors are due by July 21. Rizner said he expects price proposals to be returned from qualified contractors by Sept. 1.
Officials consider the property to have some historical significance because it was operated as the Culpepper Ford dealership for about 50 years, starting in the 1940s.
Because the property is inside a state-recognized historic district, state historic preservation guidelines dictate that the addition cannot look exactly like the existing building.
"We're going to take architectural cues from other buildings around Harlem, so we can have an addition that looks slightly different, but will still maintain historical architectural features on other buildings in Harlem," Rizner said.
"It will fit in."
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