By Meghan Hall
The City of Palo Alto is making headway on a long-anticipated new public safety building. Initially pitched in 2014 as part of the city’s Council Infrastructure Plan, the $117 million project will house the Palo Alto Police Department, 911 Emergency Dispatch and Operations centers and the Fire Department.
“It is a major accomplishment to get this project off the ground. On behalf of my Council colleagues, I want to thank so many including community members involved in the entire process, former and current City Council members and our City staff,” said Tom DuBois, City of Palo Alto Mayor in a statement. “This is a much-needed facility. We managed to reduce the project cost quite a bit with low interest rates and a bid that came in lower than expected…”
The new public safety building will replace an existing building at 275 Forest Avenue, which originally opened in 1970. The building totals about 25,000 square feet but due to the growth of Palo Alto’s population, public safety services and new regulations, the existing public safety building is outdated, officials explained.
The new Public Safety Building will be located at 250 Sherman Ave., next to the newly-built California Avenue Area Parking Garage, which was completed in December of 2020. In all, the project will rise three stories in eight and total 56,000 square feet. The office space within the building is expected to accommodate about 160 staff members from the Palo Alto Police Department, Fire and OES, bringing city services together under one roof.
The 1.2-acre site also includes an operational yard for public safety vehicle parking. Additional project features will include a public plaza at Birch and Sherman, near the main entry, and wood from the site’s original redwood trees will be milled and featured through the creation of benches.
The project is to be constructed by Swinerton Builders–who also worked on the garage–and designed by RossDrulisCusenbery Architecture. On its website, the architecture firm defines the new building as a “landmark” project designed to encourage community engagement and civic pride.
“I am thrilled to see this critical public safety project moving forward,” said Marc Berman, California State Assemblymember representing the 24th District, including Palo Alto. “Investing in our infrastructure is an important issue that I am committed to furthering at the State level, and the Public Safety Building is a critical investment in enhancing Palo Alto’s public safety needs for years to come.”
The development broke ground in June of this year after awarding a construction contract to Swinerton. Over the past couple of months, the project team has worked on soil testing, excavation and off-haul, as well as relocation of gas lines and other services to accommodate construction on the site. Construction on the project is expected to wrap up in the summer of 2023, according to City documents.
Plans for a new public safety building were first laid out in 2014. The Council Infrastructure Plan, of which the public safety building is a part, includes 10 different projects with a total capital value of $260 million. Other projects include an additional parking garage, two fire stations and a bike and pedestrian plan. The majority of the funding for the projects came from an increase in the Palo Alto Transient Occupancy tax, which was increased by 12 to 14 percent. The City’s Capital Fund, Stanford Hospital development agreement, state grants and other sources.
As of this writing, the City of Palo Alto had not yet responded to The Registry’s request for updated comment.