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Lynchburg Police Department eyes second site for new headquarters

Police building file

In this October file photo, retired Lynchburg Police Deputy Chief Eugene Wingfield speaks during a wreath-laying ceremony in honor of Police Week at the Public Safety Building on Court Street.

The Lynchburg Police Department is considering whether to scrap its plans to construct a new headquarters on Kemper Street and instead opt for a new site on Odd Fellows Road.

The police department currently is based downtown, on Court Street. The previously proposed location for a new headquarters at the corner of Kemper and 12th streets — a site that was home to the Greater Lynchburg Transit Company maintenance and operations facility before that building was demolished in May 2019 — might not meet the needs of the department, according to a presentation by Police Chief Ryan Zuidema at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

According to Zuidema, the issues with the Kemper Street location come down to having to construct a parking deck, which would cost $5 million to $6 million and would contribute to the project’s estimated $55 million price tag. The site also would have to fit a four-story building on a 2.64-acre lot.

“We’re packing a 95,000-square-foot building onto 2.64 acres with a parking deck that holds a couple hundred vehicles, as well as having surface parking for vehicles for visitors,” Zuidema said. “There is a lot of different competing issues at the Kemper Street site that compound that cost.”

The property on Odd Fellows Road, next to Genworth’s customer service building, is 7.7 acres, and building the new headquarters there would cost the city roughly $11 million dollars less to construct, with an all-in projected cost of $43.9 million. The land currently is owned by Genworth.

The city has not purchased the property and would need to complete geotechnical surveys because it is a government project, but Zuidema said he doesn’t “think there is an opposition” to buying it from the current owner.

“In fact, it’s just the opposite. I think it’s just working through some of the details,” he said.

The timeline of the two potential projects, even with the need to purchase the Odd Fellows Road property, are similar in length. The Kemper Street project would take roughly 26 to 30 months to complete, according to Zuidema’s presentation. The Odd Fellows Road location would take roughly 30 to 34 months.

Ward IV Councilman Chris Faraldi, who assisted the Federal Transit Authority in transferring the Kemper Street property to the city, is hoping a change in location will not push back the completion time.

“I recall my comments months back on my primary goal in this that shovels-in-ground date does not change. I was skeptical about leaving Kemper; candidly, that skepticism still is a little bit there, but if this plan, whatever it is, gets us to shovels in ground, and our men and women in the building that they need — not what gets us into a building, but into a building they need — that is my priority above anything else.”

Ward II Councilman Sterling Wilder said he had some concerns about the Kemper Street location at first but recognized it was the only option the city had at the time.

“I’m really concerned about the small size and the parking issue. And if we had to build a parking deck across the street, and the traffic is trying to get across that, it would just be a really busy street, so that is a little challenging.”

Wilder said he is now “more in favor of the Odd Fellows Road property because it is more centrally located, it’s three times the size of it, and when you’re building stuff, you want to make sure that you’re building something that’s going to last for the next generation, the next group.”

At-large Councilman Randy Nelson agreed with Wilder’s remarks, saying if the city wants to build something for the next generation, “Odd Fellows Road is going to get us there, while Kemper Street is not.”

The police department will weigh the pros and cons of the two sites and hopes to have decided on a site by early next year, Zuidema said.

“There is a lot of different competing issues at the Kemper Street site that compound that cost.”

Ryan Zuidema, Lynchburg police chief

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