Commissioners settle on two final sites for TPD headquarters

Northwood Centre is the front runner of the two sites being considered for TPD’s new headquarters.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

Supporters for building the next Tallahassee Police Department headquarters on the Southside made one last unsuccessful pitch to convert a shopping plaza before they found out it wasn’t being considered any longer.

In fact, the new TPD headquarters will be located on city-owned property. City commissioners voted unanimously last Wednesday night to settle on either an old wastewater treatment plant on Lake Bradford or the Northwood Centre, which the city recently purchased.

Getting to that point wasn’t without some pushback, though. Much of the contention was reminiscent of strong opposition to having the station at the Towne South Plaza site.

Mayor John Dailey said he could not support the Plaza site because of its $5 million price. He also cited other issues with the property, including a FEMA flooding report and the existing tenants.

Christic Henry spoke passionately in support of the Towne South Plaza.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

The next phase of the process, City Manager Reese Goad said, is for staff to bring back findings from further analysis of the two properties, including cost. In addition to Towne South, a Winewood location was briefly part of the conversation before it was eliminated. That property would cost the city $15 million to purchase.

“I was pleased with the process,” Goad said. “I think it was constructive and we heard from a lot of our neighbors.”

Discussion on the choice for a new TPD headquarters started after Deputy City Manager Cynthia Barber told commissioners there was overwhelming support for three properties owned by the city. TPD’s current location is the third property owned by the city in addition to the two that were chosen.

Much of the criticism for a new round of discussion that included the Towne South location was directed at Commissioner Curtis Richardson. However, it was Richardson who asked that the commission take Towne South off the table and start the search over.

That resulted in more than 60 recommendations. That list was dwindled down to 10 before the final two were chosen.

“I’m OK with where we are because we still have a Southside location on the table,” said Richardson. “It can achieve two goals: one as the public safety campus and secondly we could also co-locate a fire station there. From that perspective, I feel real good about the decision that the commission has made.”

Pastor Greg James was among supporters for a TPD station on the Southside.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

While economic development was part of the argument for having a police station on the Southside, Commissioner Dianne Williams Cox said there are plans to improve the economy without the police station.

Christic Henry, a Southside advocate and TPD backer, said philosophical differences were at the heart of the dispute. She led a group that showed up wearing T-shirts with “Public Safety = community wealth on the front and the back read: “We support TPD relocation to the Southside.”

“It’s very difficult to have agreement when you have philosophies at war,” Henry said. “I recognize that. There is a philosophy of economic development that is at war with what many people understand of what community development is. In order for that to combine it’s going to take information discovery; an opportunity of learning on both sides to reach true consensus.”

Denzel Pierre, a member of Tallahassee Community Action Committee, questioned who would benefit if a police station was built in the Towne South Plaza location.

“We have had this conversation many, many, many, times,” he said. “It’s honestly tiring.”

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