The move to replace Puyallup’s downtown public safety building with a new one on South Hill is advancing, with public comment on the new building’s design starting this week.
But officials say it’s important that the fire and police departments maintain a presence downtown after they leave their current location at 311 W. Pioneer. Preliminary plans are in place to build a substation between Fourth Street NW and 15th Street SE.
“The idea would be that we keep this in the core, not too far from where we’re at (now),” police Capt. Ryan Portmann said.
Conceptual designs show a 1,500-to-2,000-square-foot substation that includes a “safe harbor” emergency vestibule, a public meeting room, a report-writing area and offices for parking enforcement, traffic and bicycle units.
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The rest of the department, plus the jail and courts, will move to the new building, referred to as the Puyallup Justice Center, at 703 39th Ave. SE., which is still within city limits.
An aging building
The current public safety building was built in the 1960s, and over the years the structure has become unfit for the police department, officials say.
The building is cramped, the roof sometimes leaks and no room is large enough to hold a department-wide meeting, according to the department. Some officers work out of former closets.
Municipal Court, located on the first floor of a shared building at 929 E. Main, is not an ideal location and could benefit from a secured parking lot, according to staff members. Being at the same facility would make it easier for officers to go between the courts and their department, Judge Andrea Beall told The Puyallup Herald in 2016.
The city bought a three-acre parcel off 39th Avenue in 2016 for the new public safety building. Central Pierce Fire & Rescue currently is working to build a fire station beside it.
The new three-story building will be 112,500 square feet, with about 37,500 square feet per level. The first floor will be below-grade secure parking with a basement for materials such as evidence. The ground floor will house the police department, with the jail and courtrooms on the top floor.
Police also have secure parking behind the building. Total secure parking will be 106 stalls with an additional 100 public parking spots. The jail will grow from its current 50 beds to between 80 and 100 beds.
Response from the Hill
The move to South Hill won’t hurt police response times, Portmann said.
“Our officers are generally deployed in the field and as such don’t necessarily respond from the station,” he said in an email. “They respond from their respective patrol district.”
Still, police officials acknowledged the importance of having a presence downtown.
“We at the Puyallup Police Department know that our presence in the downtown core is important and a value to our community,” Chief Scott Engle said. “With the proposal for a new Public Safety Facility on the hill also comes a commitment to remain present downtown, in both physical space as well as patrol services.”
During the day, the department plans for officers to be at the substation. After hours, an emergency vestibule will be available so in an emergency citizens could seal themselves inside. A phone will be available inside to call 911.
At a meeting July 17, City Council members discussed the benefits to having the public safety building on the Hill.
“As I began to think more and talk more into it, I began to see the rationale and actually the wisdom of moving up on the Hill,” Councilman Dean Johnson said, “We’re staged for some major development on the Hill with the South Hill Mall, and with the population growth it just makes sense.”
The city has not decided if it will finance the project through a bond or another method and does not yet have a total cost.
The project is now moving into the design phase. The public is encouraged to attend an open house Tuesday and share ideas for what they’d like to see at the new center.
About the open house
What: Community open house concerning the new Puyallup Justice Center
When: 6-8 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 14)
Where: City Council Chambers, fifth floor of Puyallup City Hall, 333 S. Meridian