BLACKSBURG – The town just completed construction on its new police station, and the building’s location is also in a perfect spot for glimpses at the local law enforcement agency’s history.
From a large window in the patrol room, where furniture such as desks, a conference table and office chairs are already neatly arranged, a quaint but historic structure can be seen at the tail end of Church Street. The small building is the old Blacksburg Town Hall, identified by red lettering just above the front entrance.
That historic building was also once home to the police department, with Church Street forming an almost informal connection between the agency’s future and past.
These both obvious and subtle looks into the department’s history are just some of the many features in and around the new station located on the corner of Clay and Church streets – the latter has been extended and now cuts through the old town middle school site that is in the early stages of a major development project.
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Blacksburg officials this week are celebrating the completion of the new station, an approximately $ 16.5 million project built along with a connected five-story parking garage.
The entire complex’s cost was just over $ 26 million, with the 300-space parking deck costing $ 9.8 million, according to the latest figures provided by Deputy Town Manager Chris Lawrence.
The structures are slated to be ready for occupancy and use by August, Lawrence said Tuesday during a tour of the finished facilities with retiring Blacksburg Police Chief Anthony Wilson and his successor, Capt. Todd Brewster.
Among the improvements the new facility offers is the significantly larger space, which town officials said is key for accommodating growth and general department functions.
“Everything is designed in a way to expand as needed,” Lawrence said.
The new two-story station is approximately 37,000 square feet, or more than twice the size of the department’s current home at 200 Clay St.
Wilson said the department has reached the point where it has become increasingly difficult for its current home to accommodate operations. He said the current station includes closets that were turned into offices, a fact other town officials have pointed out over the years to highlight some of the challenges with the building.
During the recent tour of the new station, Wilson and Brewster went through a locker room. Wilson said the locker room in the current station is about the same size as the adjacent to the locker room in the new building.
Wilson touted the new station’s first floor community room, which was designed and placed to provide a more transparent and inviting feel. Among other functions, the room will be able to house town meetings, as well as other events such as press conferences.
The current station had a community room but effectively lost it over the years due to the growth of the agency and its operations, Wilson said.
“We just lost that connection,” Wilson said, adding that it’s a service they’d like to rebuild with the community.
Another new space Wilson touted is a second-floor area dubbed the “training triangle.”
The area consists of a weight room, a so-called defense training room that is equipped with mat padding on both the floor and walls and a simulator room that will focus on exercises intended to train officers to de-escalate situations.
The training triangle is a unique part of the new building because it was made possible by a group of citizens, including business owners, who raised about $ 130,000 for the establishment of the space, Wilson said. The area fits the department’s efforts to improve its social responsibility, he said.
Other new areas Wilson highlighted include the emergency operations center near the chief’s office and a recovery bay – an enclosed garage-type space that will make it easier for department personnel to examine vehicles that have been involved in crimes and crashes.
The parking garage and police station complex will be among the structures on the old town middle school property to belong to the town, with the remainder of the development set to involve a mixture of privately-owned residential and commercial properties. Construction has already started on some of the private developments.
The fate of the middle school site was debated for decades before a plan was finally approved.
The parking deck will be paid off over time with new revenue generated by taxes on the development – meals and lodging taxes and business licenses –and a special services tax district that will exclusively cover the old middle school site.
The special tax district will require all private property owners on the site to pay an additional 20 cents on their town real estate tax rate.