Architects designing the city’s new police headquarters presented six layouts for the 600 block of East Main Street last week, two that preserve the 1928 Carpenter Chevrolet building.
John Atkins, CEO of O’Brien/Atkins Associates, called the layouts “six what-ifs,” presented for public comment before the firm makes a progress report to the City Council this spring.
A small group of residents attended a drop-in session at the downtown Armory to see the designs and leave written comments. The six layouts are also available at nando.com/1a6.
The new headquarters will occupy a 4.5-acre block between Main and Ramseur streets, with Elizabeth Street on the west and Hood Street on the east.
Each layout includes a 92,000-square foot main building; a 63,700-square foot annex for property and evidence storage, the 911 call center and some other functions; an 85-space surface parking lot for visitors and a 200,000-square foot parking garage for police employees.
They differ by how they arrange those four elements. Five have headquarters fronting on Main Street, while one sets the frontage at an angle, with a triangular plaza along the sidewalk.
Some fill the lot with police structures, others leave space open for use by the city or private developers. Where the Carpenter building remains, it is not incorporated into the police complex but left alone as it is – no renovation included.
“This is saying it’s something completely separate, where the Police Department leases it out or the city retains it or it’s sold off,” said architect Julie McLaurin.
Preservation Durham has pushed for saving the Carpenter building, and the group’s board chairwoman, Elizabeth Sappenfield, said the designs that leave it standing are “a great idea.
“If it’s possible for them to carve that out ... I think that would be a real softener” to the police building, she said. “They’ve done a good job keeping the scale of the main structure in scale with the old building so it doesn’t seem like it’s overwhelming.
“It would be nice to pull in some of the architectural details and tie them together a little bit,” she said.
Besides historic preservation, residents attending an April “visioning session” favored stores and restaurants along the block’s sidewalk frontage, and opposed anything suggesting a bunker or “fortified castle.”
Tim Walter, who owns Halo Art across Ramseur street from the site, said it appeared that “civic input ... didn’t get factored into these.
"It’s been my general concern ... to make sure (police HQ) doesn’t provide a barrier between east and west Durham,” Walter said. “Better than that, provides some street life and some flow between east and west.”
He also said he was “disheartened” that there was no consideration of opening some of the parking deck for civilian use after business hours. “Too bad,” he said.
Matt Dudek, who said he was speaking personally and not as government affairs manager for Downtown Durham Inc., said he was glad to see the designs that left space on Ramseur Street available for later development.
However, he said he was “concerned about how the building will actually engage people on the street.
“I would have liked to have seen one of the concepts integrate some type of retail space on Main Street,” Dudek said. “That said, some have said there might be community spaces in the front of the building.”
Trinity Park resident John Hodges-Copple said he would like to see HQ “more as a community building than a police building, so that it’s less a target.
“It becomes a physical example of what I believe the police feel, that they want to be seen as part of the community, not apart from the community,” said Hodges-Copple.
“So to the degree you can do things that allow for other uses ... along some of the frontages, I think you send that physical, visual signal to the community. I think that helps both the police and the community.”
One element common to all six concepts was, prominent on the site, a “memorial.”
“It’s not determined ... what it’s memorializing," said Adrian Matlock, one of the architects, but memorials are an amenity found at a number of other police buildings the firm studied for the Durham project.
"It would be nice to have something pedestrian-scale," Matlock said.
State your opinion
The six concept layouts for Durham’s new police headquarters at 600 East Main Street are also available for viewing online at nando.com/1a6.
A form for submitting comments online is at nando.com/1a7. Comments may also be submitted, through Wednesday, May 20, to Project Manager, Trish Creta, General Services Department at (919) 560-4197, ext. 21258, firstname.lastname@example.org.