Renovations under way at police building


HQ has never been OK.

Ever since it was built more than 20 years ago, the Baltimore Police Department's headquarters on East Fayette Street has had its problems: asbestos, poor ventilation, elevators that don't go to the top floor, a bold exterior that seems to tell visitors "Go away."

The city is trying to fix it. Yesterday, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, NTC Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier and other dignitaries donned hard hats, grabbed shovels and broke ground for a five-story addition. The project is expected to cost $32 million and take three years to finish.

The city considered other options -- including moving into the Hecht Co. building on Howard Street -- but decided this was the least expensive solution to a large problem.

"It's been a disaster of a building from day one," said Sam Ringgold, Police Department spokesman.

The five-story addition will be built just east of the 10-story headquarters. This will be the new public entrance, a more inviting one, said Scott Hemlock, senior associate for HOK Architects in Washington, one of the designers.

"That building is not terribly inviting," Mr. Hemlock said of the large structure with gold-colored, reflective outside panels. "It does not feel like it's reaching out to the public . . . That was the philosophy of the police department at the time."

Mr. Frazier said the addition "is very much designed to include public participation . . . we want to make it easy for them to come and see us."

Added Maj. Alvin Winkler, in an opening prayer: "As we expand this building, we expand our outreach to the citizens of this great city."

From the street, visitors will be able to see inside the building through regular windows. They can walk into the lobby to pick up accident reports, which will be sent downstairs via pneumatic tubes, Mr. Hemlock said.

Both buildings will be connected through a controlled access. The old building will be used for investigations and criminal labs.

To renovate the old building, each floor will be gutted and asbestos removed, Mr. Hemlock said.

A new ventilation system will be built -- long-awaited relief to officers. At times in the winter, some parts of the building approach 100 degrees while others are too chilly. In the summer, parts of the building are too hot while others are too cold.

E9 "There are ducts that go nowhere," Mr. Ringgold said.

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