Architects envision 'inviting,' 'transparent' police station
As Forest Grove churns toward a possible citywide vote next year on whether to approve bonds for a new police station, city councilors got their most detailed glimpse yet at the concept for the facility Monday evening, Oct. 22.
A pair of project representatives from the Portland-based architectural firm Mackenzie presented rough floor plans for the proposed facility at a Forest Grove City Council work session. They also led a discussion about the types of design elements and materials that could be used for the building and exterior landscaping.
Working with city staff and the Forest Grove Police Department, Mackenzie has identified a number of buzzwords that the project team wants the proposed police station to convey: "compassion," "warm," "inviting" and "strength," among others. Along with those, the architects are also sensitive to the need for the building to look like it fits in with other buildings in Forest Grove's historic downtown, said Mackenzie principal architect Jeff Humphreys.
Some of the core design concepts — the use of glass in the building's facade, for instance, and some of the proposed landscaping elements — are a direct response to the police department's stated needs, said Scott Moore, a senior associate with Mackenzie.
"One of the frequent things that we've heard from police is, 'We really want this business to express that we are a transparent department, that we have a strong relationship with our community,'" Moore said. "These are some examples of how we might do that."
Police Chief Janie Schutz also wants the building to acknowledge the importance of police in the community, she indicated at Monday's work session.
"I want something to show the strength of law enforcement," Schutz said. "Law enforcement's struggling across the nation, and yet they need to persevere. So I want some form of 'thin blue line,' if at all possible, worked into the design."
As proposed, the new police station would be two stories high, and in terms of square footage, about double the size of the existing facility at the corner of Pacific Avenue and Ash Street. It would be situated at the opposite corner of the block, at 19th Avenue and Birch Street.
The existing station is several decades old, and city officials have said it is too small for the department's needs, suboptimal in its layout and not built to withstand the stresses of a major earthquake. State law requires police and fire stations to have been seismically upgraded by 2022, "subject to available funding."
No final design is in place at this point. No final decision has been made yet, either, on whether the city will proceed with the plans, although members of the City Council have been supportive up to this point in the process.
The council is expected to receive a cost estimate for the new police facility in late November. At that point, the city's elected officials will begin deciding whether, and when, to ask voters to approve a bond measure to pay for construction.
Paul Downey, Forest Grove's director of administrative services, said city staff are studying the possibility of getting the bond measure onto the ballot as soon as next May — when, they hope, it will not be competing with other money measures for Forest Grove voters' attention.
"We're trying to push as hard as we can to get this done for May so we get out in front of people," Downey said.
City officials have been anticipating the need for a new police station for some time. Earlier this year, the City Council unanimously agreed to purchase two buildings — a nearly century-old house and the former site of Stuntzner Engineering & Forestry — at the corner of 19th Avenue and Birch Street, effectively bringing the entire block under complete or partial city ownership (the Forest Grove Rural Fire Protection District, which is technically separate from the city despite sharing a command staff, resources and personnel, owns a share of the fire station property at 19th Avenue and Ash Street).
Both the house and the old Stuntzner building would be demolished to make way for the new police station and parking area, under the plans presented by Mackenzie.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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