The county and Bethesda-based developer StonebridgeCarras on Wednesday celebrated the start of construction on a long-awaited new downtown Bethesda police station, a facility officials said is sorely needed to replace the existing 55-year-old station at Wisconsin and Montgomery avenues.
“I want to thank the cops that work in the Bethesda district. They do such a phenomenal job for the community day in and day out and they get no help in terms of the facility that they’re working out of,” Police Chief Thomas Manger told a crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony, held at the new police station site on a parking lot at 4823 Rugby Ave.
“Many of them are here and I know exactly why they’re here,” Manger said. “They want to make damn sure that we build this station. So I promise you guys, we’re doing it.”
County and StonebridgeCarras officials expect the station to be completed and open by spring 2017.
The public-private partnership with StonebridgeCarras to build the new station came after a failed attempt by the county to partner with developer JBG Cos. on a new station at Cordell and Wisconsin avenues.
At the time, representatives from JBG said the deal fell through because the company had difficulties acquiring all of the properties on the proposed site. The county reopened the public-private partnership process and in September 2013, selected StonebridgeCarras to build the new station at the Rugby Avenue site.
To help pay for the new four-story, 38,000-square-foot station, the county will give StonebridgeCarras the property of its existing station, which the developer intends to use for a new mixed-use development project in the center of downtown Bethesda.
“It’s a very creative deal,” County Council President Nancy Floreen said at the groundbreaking event. “I don’t think you see this happening often.”
From left to right: StonebridgeCarras Principal Jane Mahaffie, Council President Nancy Floreen, StonebridgeCarras Principal Doug Firstenberg, County Executive Ike Leggett, Police Chief Tom Manger, 2nd District Police Commander David Falcinelli and Council member Marc Elrich at Wednesday's 2nd District Police Station groundbreaking ceremony. Credit: Aaron Kraut
The county’s total cost for the new station will be $6.8 million. Most of that is for new furniture and specialized police equipment for the station and a payment to the county’s own Bethesda Parking Lot District fund for the approximately 102 spaces the new station will take away from the adjacent Woodmont-Rugby Parking Garage.
Part of the total cost is also a $2 million payment the county made to StonebridgeCarras for closing costs on the Rugby Avenue property. StonebridgeCarras will be responsible for any cost overruns related to construction of the building.
“The challenge was for us to find a way to convert the property that the county owned in this area and to build a station to recognize the great work that our men and women perform each and every day,” County Executive Ike Leggett said at the event.
Manger, 61, said he was in first grade when the existing 21,400-square-foot 2nd District station opened in 1961.
“When a crime victim comes into that station, there’s no place to take them to talk,” Manger said. “You got a police officer or a detective talking to a crime victim out in the lobby of the station where other people are coming in and out of the station conducting other business. It’s just functionally not operational for us.”
Manger thanked Floreen and council members Sidney Katz and Marc Elrich, who were also in attendance, for listening to “whining from me over the last I don’t know how many years” about the need for a new Bethesda police station. He said the police department was pleased the new 2nd District Station would remain in Bethesda’s central business district.
The building will meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards and is expected to achieve LEED Silver certification, a measure of a building’s energy efficiency. It will also include a meeting room open to the public.
There will be a secure, gated entrance for police officers, something the existing station doesn’t have.
The county police department’s 2nd District serves Bethesda, Potomac, North Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Kensington and parts of Silver Spring.