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Cleveland City Council approves $90 million police HQ, with more spending on horizon

James DeRosa, director of the Mayor's Office of Capital Projects, walks inside the ArtCraft Building on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. The building, located at 2530 Superior Ave., will serve as the new headquarters of Cleveland's division of police.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
James DeRosa, director of the Mayor's Office of Capital Projects, walks inside the ArtCraft Building on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. The building, located at 2530 Superior Ave., will serve as the new headquarters of Cleveland's division of police.

Cleveland City Council approved plans to spend $90 million on a new police headquarters Monday, but millions more are planned for other police facilities in the coming months.

The new headquarters, which will be located at the ArtCraft building, will save more than $50 million from the previously approved site along Opportunity Corridor, city planners said.

ArtCraft building is Cleveland’s third proposed site for police HQ

Council members grilled city officials and Police Chief Wayne Drummond last Tuesday during a four-hour long joint committee meeting over what would be the third proposed site for the new police headquarters.

The city first backed out of plans to occupy the former Cleveland Plain Dealer building at 1801 Superior Ave., in 2018, later opting for new construction along the Opportunity Corridor on the East Side.

Those plans were approved by City Council under former Mayor Frank Jackson. However, the Bibb administration put a hold on those plans in August 2022 due to rising construction costs.

“I just hope this third time is the charm,” said City Council President Blaine Griffin during the finance committee meeting Monday afternoon. “It would not be a happy council if we had to come back another year later and build yet another building.”

Development Chief Jeff Epstein and Manager of Architecture and Site Development Carter Edman argued that the ArtCraft building, located at 2570 Superior Ave., is not only more cost effective, saving nearly $350 per square foot, but that its central location in a rapidly-developing area will make it more accessible to citizens.

Previous plans at the Opportunity Corridor’s 180,000 square foot building would’ve been unable to house many divisions that the 250,000 square foot ArtCraft building can accommodate. Between the new construction and associated costs with the additional space needed for departments that would not fit, the price estimate for the Opportunity Corridor project mounted $160 million.

Unlike the Opportunity Corridor buildout, the ArtCraft building, a historic brick building constructed in 1920, will be rehabilitated to accommodate the Cleveland Division of Police’s needs.

Griffin cautioned council to closely monitor the price tag, which city planners assured would not exceed $90 million.

“Whenever you do rehab, there’s always cost overruns,” he said.

The project will be managed by Beachwood-based TurnDev and is expected to be completed in 2025.

City will seek proposals for land purchased at Opportunity Corridor

The city has already sunk $9.5 million into the Opportunity Corridor project, most of which are not recoverable funds. Some design plans, however, can be repurposed for the ArtCraft plans, Edman said.

Part of that $9.5 million included land acquisition, for which the city intends to release a request for proposals soon.

“There’s a lot of momentum... we think this site will be very attractive,” Epstein said.

More police spending plans to come

During last week’s joint committee hearing, Safety Chairman Mike Polensek pressed the Mayor’s Office of Capital Projects about major police facility projects still in the pipeline.

Council already approved the $5 million conversion of South High School in Slavic Village into a public safety training center, but city officials laid out costs for two additional multi-million dollar projects in response to Polensek’s questions.

The upcoming projects will find new homes for Cleveland’s SWAT and mounted units for $6.5 million and $13 million, respectively.

The SWAT unit will be moved to the former city kennel building, while the mounted unit’s stables will relocate from their East 38th Street site to Thackery Avenue to make way for an Ohio Department of Transportation project.

Some council members bristled at the price tag on the $13 million stables, which will house the Division of Police’s seven horses and three officers assigned to the mounted unit, only one of whom actually rides the horses.

“That’s a lot of horse feed,” quipped Polensek. He recommended the city ask ODOT to pay.

Councilmember Richard Starr, who represents Ward 5, said his residents who live close to the proposed site would rather see new housing in the area. Design plans for the facility are expected to be complete in June.

The projects come at a time when the division is hemorrhaging officers to higher-paying suburbs and struggling to recruit. The 2023 budget, approved by council the same day, slashed more than 140 unfilled police positions.

Ward 17 Councilmember Charles Slife said he wants to see more investment in the city’s five police districts to retain existing officers.

“I understand the need for a new police headquarters, but there’s just something that rubs me the wrong way that we’re sinking all this money into essentially management and letting the rank-and-file continue to operate in these antiquated facilities,” Slife said during the joint committee meeting.

Any further police spending must be approved by City Council in future legislation.

Abbey Marshall covers Cleveland-area government and politics for Ideastream Public Media.