Construction is set to start this summer on a new Oklahoma City police headquarters and court complex, a project seen as a potential catalyst to redeveloping the west fringe of downtown.
Plans presented publicly for the first time Thursday at the Downtown Design Review Committee show a new court building to be built on a surface parking lot the city owns at the northeast corner of Couch Drive and Shartel Avenue.
A new police headquarters, meanwhile, will be built on a city-owned surface parking lot on the southeast corner of Colcord Drive and Shartel Avenue. New parking will be built between the two new buildings, where the current police headquarters and court are located.
Deputy Police Chief Tom Jester told the committee the $50 million project is overdue, with the 40-year-old complex being outdated for current needs, crammed for space and suffering ongoing troubles with old mechanical systems.
“It will be designed in a way that it will be more usable,” Jester said, “but we also want it to be inviting to the public and architecturally pleasing.”
Scott Dedmon, project architect and principal with ADG Inc., told the committee the design attempts to address security needs, stay within the project's budget and reflect the history of the surrounding area, historically known as the “Civic Center.”
The Civic Center, when built in 1937, was essentially the city's first MAPS project, consisting of the Oklahoma County Courthouse, original police headquarters, the Municipal Auditorium (now the Civic Center Music Hall) and City Hall, all designed in the Art Deco style of the era.
“These buildings are unique from other buildings you see downtown,” Dedmon said. “They are surrounded by green space and feature a lot of public space.”
Likewise, Dedmon said, the new court and police headquarters also feature a larger setback from the street than typical for downtown construction, which also addresses security concerns.
The budget did not allow for the use of limestone as was used on the original Civic Center buildings. But Dedmon said the use of calcium silicate masonry is similar in appearance to limestone and was most recently used in construction of the St. Anthony Hospital office building in MidTown.
The buildings also will incorporate the use of tan brick similar to what was used at the Civic Center Music Hall and original police headquarters. Atriums will feature light tinted glass.
Looking to future
Dedmon said construction will start this summer on the police headquarters, with the courthouse construction to follow in 2014. The parking won't be built until the two buildings are completed. The entire project is expected to be finished in 2016.
Oklahoma City Planning Director Russell Claus, meanwhile, is studying how best to use the new police and court complex to stimulate redevelopment of the west fringe of downtown.
“There is a lot of vacant land in the area, a significant amount of which is owned by the city or in association with the city,” Claus said.
“The redevelopment of Main Street would be imminent if we could change the dynamic on those currently vacant or underutilized properties.”
Claus noted that a block south of the Civic Center, along Sheridan Avenue, a vibrant redevelopment known as “Film Row” has taken root.
But the block of Main Street between the police and court complex and Film Row has remained largely blighted.
One option, Claus said, could be to build a parking garage between the police headquarters and court that could also serve the Civic Center Music Hall and other government entities. By doing so, he said, surface parking lots that litter the area could be developed quickly.
“That side of town has great access, great proximity, and a great view of the downtown skyline,” Claus said. “From many a perspective, that area is definitely going to develop with just a bit of a catalyst. And redevelopment of the police and court complex can assist in that process.”
It will be designed in a way that it will be more usable, but we also want it to be inviting to the public and architecturally pleasing.”
Deputy Police Chief Tom Jester,