Fairfax public-safety headquarters 1

Fairfax County leaders cut the ceremonial ribbon Oct. 26 to dedicate the new Public Safety Headquarters building in Fairfax. (Photo by Brian Trompeter)

After decades spent in an obsolete, decaying building, Fairfax County police and fire personnel now can collaborate in a modern, technologically advanced headquarters located within sight of the county’s Government Center.

“It’s functional, attractive and just a way-better work environment for our public-safety folks,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D). “Being able to bring everyone together under one roof is invaluable.”

The 160-foot tall, 274,000-square-foot facility, located at 12099 Government Center Parkway in Fairfax, wowed visitors at the Oct. 26 ribbon-cutting ceremony with its range of amenities and services, multiple memorials and extensive artifacts collection.

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” said Supervisor Patrick Herrity (R-Springfield). “Our public-safety officials are the ones who keep us safe and they deserve the best.”

The new building, designed by HOK Inc. and built by Manhattan Construction Co., will allow police and fire staff to collaborate better and provide swifter access to nearby county agencies, officials said.

“We’ve been trying to break down silos in the county for a long time,” said Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville).

Acting County Executive Kirk Kincannon joked that while serving in his usual role as Fairfax County Park Authority director, he had – visually, if not actually – overseen construction of the new public-safety facility from his office in the Herrity Building.

County officials touted the new facility’s environmentally friendly features, including all-LED lighting, five green roofs (one with staff accessibility), permeable pavement, locally accessed building materials, outdoor vegetative swales, copious natural lighting and rainwater harvesting.

The building will accommodate about 700 staff members. Roughly 300 personnel already have set up shop, said project engineer Maurice Avren of the county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES).

“The building is fully functional and open for business,” added county spokesman Tony Castrilli. “However, public-safety personnel are just starting to move in. The move-in is scheduled in phases and will take several months.”

The new headquarters has eight working floors, plus a two-story mechanical penthouse on top, Avren said. Its secure parking garage can handle about 650 vehicles and the 9.3-acre site provides about 850 parking spaces overall, he said.

The structure was designed to achieve Silver certification (and perhaps Gold) under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

The $142 million building came in under-budget, but most of its high-ticket items were security measures, said Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock).

“It is critically important that in this day when we’re concerned with terrorist threats and other things that happen unfortunately more often than we would like to think, this building is not only is beautiful, but is very secure,” Cook said.

Officials provided few details about the security measures. One protective element was visible along the facility’s rear on Monument Drive: a line of closely spaced, easy-chair-sized boulders designed to stop incoming vehicles.

“If something big ever happens, this is where you want to be,” Avren said of the headquarters.

Amenities abound in the building, from an aerobics room with a cushioned floor to a spacious fitness room filled with exercise machines.

Display cases are situated throughout the building, but the main one is on the second floor.

Glass cabinets house memorabilia such as vintage photos, an old police uniform with .38-caliber bullets in its belt, a piece of a still seized in a raid, tear-gas and line-firing guns, firefighter breathing apparatuses, helicopter pilots’ helmets and cameras from a 4x5 Speed Graphic to twin-lens reflexes, 35 mm single-lens reflexes and a Polaroid One Step instant camera.

Manassas resident Carmen DeFranks, who retired in 2006 after 36 years as a county firefighter and fire marshal, donated a circa-1970 pair of canvas bunker pants for the displays. “It was back when I was a little slimmer,” he said.

Master Police Officer Ray Roberts, who works at the Sully District Station in Chantilly, marveled at a chunky, small-screened computer that officers operated in their cruisers in the late 1980s and a portable radio nicknamed the “Brick” cause of its bulk and weight.

County police and fire officials for many years have worked out of the obsolete Massey Building near the Fairfax County Courthouse in Fairfax. The old headquarters will be razed and its site will serve as open space until county leaders determine its next use, officials said.

The Massey Building long has been the butt of derisive comments and plenty of county leaders were eager to play Don Rickles at the ceremony.

“We won the race,” Cook said. “A few years ago when we were planning this building, we had a very legitimate concern [over] whether we could get the building done before the Massey Building collapsed in a cloud of asbestos-laden dust.”

After watching one of the police department’s helicopters execute a close flyover of the new facility, DPWES Director James Patteson kidded that the chopper’s next mission was to destroy the Massey Building.

“I hope everybody got your stuff out before coming over,” he said.

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