Fairfax County officials on Sept. 16 broke ground for a 274,000-square-foot public-safety headquarters that will give police and fire operations a technologically modern and energy-efficient base in which to collaborate and grow.

“This is a great day for our public-safety family,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D). “This is going to be an exciting completion of the Government Center campus.”

Designed by HOK, P.C., the facility will be built by Manhattan Construction Group and should be finished within two years, although police and fire personnel will not occupy the site until spring 2017.

The facility, to be built on Government Center Parkway next to the Herrity Building, will be eight stories tall and have an 850-space, five-level parking garage.

The $142 million facility will be financed primarily with $133 million in revenue bonds issued by the county’s Economic Development Authority.

The building will qualify for a Silver rating under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards of the U.S. Green Building Council.

In addition to having energy-efficient water fixture, permeable pavements, “green” roofs and rainwater harvesting, the building will be the county’s first to employ light-emitting-diode (LED) lighting throughout.

The new headquarters will have training and multipurpose rooms, plus rooms where police and fire officials can test, interview and recruit personnel.  

Administrative offices will take up most of the building, but the first three floors will contain the Fire Marshal’s Occupational Health and Fire Prevention Offices and the police department’s False Alarm Reduction Unit and Central Records Division.

Police and fire operations currently are based out of the 44-year-old Massey Building, located on county property within the city of Fairfax. The structure formerly served as the county’s main administrative building until the Government Center was built in 1991.

The Massey Building is sheathed in asbestos, plagued by a leaky roof, has an overloaded electrical system and is served by heating-and-cooling equipment so antiquated that replacement parts are unavailable, officials said.

The building “is a great example of Soviet-style architecture,” said Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock). “And it functions about as well as the Soviet buildings did, too. It’s not healthy, it’s not efficient. We need to get our folks out of there.”

Rehabilitating the Massey facility would have cost at least $87 million, so county officials opted to spend $55 million more on a new structure that could handle growth of the police and fire departments.

The county’s Sheriff’s Office will continue to be based near the Massey site, as the bulk of the agency’s work involves providing security at the nearby courthouse and operating the adjacent Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.

The Massey site will be redeveloped, but no plans are in place yet, officials said.

The future headquarters building, designed to meet the county’s public-safety needs in 2030, will accommodate up to 700 people, versus 463 at the Massey Building.

The new facility will create efficiencies and boost the morale of public-safety personnel, said Fire Chief Richard Bowers Jr.

“Congratulations to this county for moving forward, paying forward for public safety,” Bowers said. “It is certainly the hallmark of what we do and the staple of a great county and community.”

Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. said officials are planning for the future as the county urbanizes.

“The visions of those who have served before us have become a reality today at this ceremony,” Roessler said. “Now it’s our turn to carry on the legacy of the public-safety family.”

David Rohrer, deputy county executive for public safety, worked in the Massey Building for 15 years of his career and said an updated facility is due.

Basing police and fire operations in the same building is unusual in the country, Rohrer said. While those departments have good-natured professional rivalries, co-locating them at one site enhances their joint effectiveness, he said.

Design work for the new headquarters was complicated and took into account environmental concerns and neighborhood impacts, Cook said.

Cook wryly noted that his district formerly was known for its lack of land-use cases, but that changed during the most recent redistricting, when the Board of Supervisors extended the district out to the Government Center area.

“Thank you, board members,  for adding to my workload,” he joshed.

 

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