RALEIGH — The city broke ground Thursday on a $48 million operations center for housing and maintaining city vehicles that officials say will be more efficient than the downtown facilities it will replace.
Brasfield and Gorrie, a contractor based in Birmingham, Ala., is designing and constructing a 35-acre campus that will house city-owned trucks, street sweepers, police vehicles and buses.
When it’s completed in 18 months, the operations center on Westinghouse Boulevard, just north of the Beltline, will consist of 12 buildings and nearly 800 parking spaces for city-owned vehicles and equipment, with additional parking spaces for the public and employees.
“There will be over 500,000 square feet of concrete paved. Every Raleigh citizen could come out and stand on one square foot,” Eric Perkinson, a vice president with Brasfield and Gorrie’s Raleigh office, said Thursday during the groundbreaking ceremony that included the mayor, several city council members, construction workers and officials with various city departments that will be housed on the new campus.
Perkinson said the center will create more than 450 construction jobs.
The new operations facility will enable Raleigh to better serve a city that is now spread over 145 square miles, mostly north of downtown, city leaders said.
It will be located across the street from the city’s public safety center, which will house emergency operations and communications centers and is already under construction. City leaders say the close proximity of the two facilities will make response and recovery to emergencies such as a tornado or hurricane much more efficient.
City officials also say the move to the new facility for vehicle fleet services, street maintenance and traffic engineering will allow the city to offer some “prime downtown acreage for development.” The old site, between Capital Boulevard and West Streets near Peace Street, was Devereux Meadows Ball Park from 1939 to 1979.
A second phase of the construction project will include space for the city’s parks and recreation staff along with the expansion of a maintenance and operations center on Brentwood Road. The city’s solid waste services division moved to a new facility at 630 Beacon Lake Drive, off New Bern Avenue, in January of last year.
Planning for the new campus followed a study commissioned in 2005 by city officials who called for an evaluation of Raleigh’s operations and the benefits of moving them from the “decadesold, over-crowded facilities” to several decentralized locations throughout the city.
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane said the city had outgrown the center on Peace and West streets.
“In 1979, Raleigh had 100,000 citizens and covered 55 square miles,” McFarlane said. “Today, we have 450,000 residents, and the city covers 145 square miles.”
McFarlane said housing the services at several locations would enable city workers to get to affected areas much more quickly while saving on fuel.
Carl Dawson, Raleigh’s public works director, agreed, saying the strategically placed location would enable city residents to receive services in a much more timely fashion in a city that stretches for nearly 150 miles.
“It was becoming increasingly inefficient,” Dawson said, particularly as the price of fuel rose.