City leaders break ground on new Cincinnati police District 3 station

What becomes of existing Warsaw Avenue station?

CINCINNATI – Plans to replace the timeworn Cincinnati police District 3 station moved forward Monday with a groundbreaking ceremony in the city’s largest neighborhood of Westwood.

The gears of justice will turn a little more safely now that Cincinnati is building a $15 million upgrade to its western district police station, in what is notoriously recognized as one of the most violent areas of town as of late. The new 39,000 square-foot facility, scheduled to open in July 2015, will replace the current facility located on Warsaw Avenue in East Price Hill.

City Council approved the one-time funding in Fiscal Year 2014 for needed capital projects, including the new headquarters for District 3 at 2300 Ferguson Road.

“It used to be when you build a great city, you use the public institutions to be the gathering place for the community,” Mayor Mark Mallory said during his remarks. “You use the pubic institutions to be the architectural icons of the community.”

A rendering provided by the city of Cincinnati of the new District 3 police station, scheduled to open July 2015. City of Cincinnati | Provided

The new building will move 154 District 3 police officers from a 106-year-old antiquated building at 3201 Warsaw Avenue in East Price Hill to a state-of-the art facility. The new, centrally located building will serve the 95,000 people that live in the city’s west side more efficiently, leaders argue.

Emersion Design designed the new facility and Messer Construction will build it. Leaders boasted about the new police station environmentally friendly construction and design, too. From geothermal mechanical systems to increase efficiency to solar panels to generate its own power, the goal of the design is to achieve zero net energy consumption.

City leaders hope to qualify for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing – an alternative to a loan designed to encourage the installation of renewable-energy systems – for the new building.

Construction plans include green building technology to qualify for LEED Platinum Rating accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council – the highest accreditation available.

“This will be the highest standard I think for any building the city of Cincinnati has built, so I think is a particularly great distinction,” Mallory said.

The building will sit on approximately four acres located at the high point of the Metropolitan Sewer District’s Lick Run Valley Project. The $192 million Lick Run project, which could bring back to life a buried creek and transform the area west of the Western Hills Viaduct, is aimed at bringing the city's aging sewer system into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act.

Plans also call for the police station to be located on the city’s revamped bike paths. The bicycle network proposed is a 445-mile system of on-street bicycle facilities and routes, shared-use trails and key connecting paths. The ambitious plan is scheduled for completion sometime in 2025.

Location, Location, Location

For District 3 Capt. Russ Neville, the new location reflects the changing needs of policing the 14 west side neighborhoods the station will serve. Approximately 80 percent of the population in District 3 lives in Westwood and West Price Hill, he said.

In effect, a vast majority of the calls for service are from those two neighborhoods.

“For the most part, the people who lived in the northern part of the district, could not take ownership of their public safety, but soon they’ll be able to,” Neville said.

The District 3 police station will be on Ferguson Road, instead of its existing location on Warsaw Avenue

Statistics bear him out. The number of people shot in Westwood from 2010 to 2012 has increased each year from 31 in 2010 to 40 in 2011 and 57, according to Cincinnati police statistics.

In West Price Hill, approximately 30 people per year are shot over the same time period, statistics show.

As for the existing police station, the city will maintain control of it and Neville suggested it will be up to new Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell and the city administrating to determine what becomes of the building.

Some have thought he might be transformed into a substation for neighborhood investigators, Neville said, but some residents in East Price Hill hope that some police presence remains there.

“All this stuff is a matter of perception,” said Tom Gamel, president of the East Price Hill Improvement association. “We had some feelings, too, with District 3 moving outside of our community to here that the perception we wouldn’t have the same police coverage, but we’ve gone beyond that now.

“We know that we’re going to have the coverage, with officers assigned to our area just as they do with other areas.”

Gamel and his East Price Hill neighbors are working to determine what happens to the existing police station.

“We’re hoping there's going to be some form of police presence in our community, possibly a place for detectives to work out of, but it’s still in discussion stages right now,” Gamel said. “What of the neat things happening at the station in that area is having all the squad cars get dispatched from there to their beats – we’re going to miss that component of that.”

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