Crime Buster, Neighborhood Builder

Dallas's new police facility spurs redevelopment of a historic neighborhood, while also serving as a pilot project for a citywide green building program.
August 11, 2010

Residents living in Dallas's Cedars community could not have asked for a more ideal neighbor. Ever since the Dallas Police Department moved into its new, $58 million headquarters in the heart of the manufacturing and warehouse district, about a mile south of downtown, crime in and around this economically depressed area has been virtually nonexistent.

Completed a year ago, the 365,000-sf Jack Evans Police Headquarters has become an anchor for the renewal of one of the city's most historic neighborhoods, providing a sense of security, safety, and revitalization to an area that has been hurting for a long time.

Once a thriving residential and industrial community anchored by a massive, 1.1 million-sf Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog merchandising center that employed thousands, the Cedars neighborhood steadily fell into economic decline in the latter half of the last century. First, construction of Interstate 30 in the 1960s isolated the neighborhood from downtown, causing a slow deterioration of the neighborhood's commercial and residential developments. Then, in 1993, Sears closed many of its facilities, leaving thousands jobless and dozens of structures vacant.

Soon after Sears moved out, local developer Jack Matthews of Matthews Southwest — lured by the inexpensive property and tax incentives — purchased several vacant industrial facilities on 30 acres, including the Sears catalog center, with the hope of converting them into residential lofts, offices, and retail spaces.

Matthews's biggest challenge: ensuring that his future tenants would feel safe and secure in the decayed, deserted neighborhood. When he learned that the city was searching the Cedars area for a site for its new police headquarters, Matthews made the city an enticing proposal.

"He offered to donate a 3.25-acre brownfield site adjacent to the warehouse for the headquarters as a way to help anchor the neighborhood, providing a sense of greater security," says Robert Van Buren, project manager on the Jack Evans project with the Dallas Department of Public Works and Transportation. "Now, between that massive warehouse and our headquarters, there's a very dense development — kind of an island away from downtown. And the rest of the area is showing slow but steady signs of renewal."

Van Buren says that while the donation was a key factor in choosing Cedars, the deal-closer was a 1,500-car parking structure that sat vacant across the street. "The city was initially focused on renovating an existing building in the central business district, but we could not find a facility that could accommodate the department's parking needs," he says. Another attractive feature of the site is its close proximity to a DART light-rail train station.

Designed by Dallas-based architect Phillips Swager Associates, the six-story police facility consolidates about 900 non-patrol staff from six locations across the city, including the former downtown headquarters — a 90-year-old converted courthouse "so pitiful it was a source of embarrassment for the city," says Van Buren.

Nearly 80% of the new headquarters houses open-floor office space with the capacity for 1,350 staff members. The remainder is private offices, laboratories, a cafeteria, and a police museum.

"The employees expressed the desire to have some level of privacy, but in an open environment to share information and encourage teamwork," says Dean Roberts, principal with PSA. The city invested $5 million in new furniture for the facility, including 800 custom-designed workstations.

An 8,000-sf courtyard at the center of the building allows natural light to shine deep into the offices and helps break up the massive, 60,000-sf floor plates.

 
A five-story, 8,000-sf courtyard at the center of the building allows natural light to shine deep into the offices and helps break up the massive, 60,000-sf floor plates.


Roberts says the building's red brick façade and punched windows are a response to the blocky, massive Sears warehouse across the street, while the sweeping white brick wall that intersects the structure addresses the boxy, industrial nature of the neighborhood. "We wanted to introduce a curve as a counterpoint to the surrounding structures," he says.




Greening the city's finest

During the design development phase, in May 2000, Van Buren became aware of the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED green building rating program and was encouraged by how close the project already stood toward certification.

"Looking through the checklist, I realized that a lot of things we had done in the site selection phase — brownfield redevelopment, alternative transportation, etc. — gave us a good head start toward getting certified," he says. "In fact, with very slight modifications in a few areas, we were within striking distance of the LEED Certified level."

After consulting with the Building Team, which at that point was more than halfway finished with the design, Van Buren decided that the project could achieve a LEED Silver rating with additional funding for upgraded mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, including energy-efficient chillers, T8 lamp light fixtures, motion sensors, heat-recovery systems, low-e glass, reflective roofing, and even waterless urinals.

 
Nearly 80% of the new headquarters houses open-floor office space with the capacity for 1,350 staff members.


"By analyzing these systems on a life-cycle cost basis, we were able to demonstrate that most would pay back within 10 years," — an ROI that fell well within the 20-year life of the municipal bonds used to fund city capital improvement projects, he says.




Van Buren challenged the team to explore every option to save energy and water. One creative solution, developed by local electrical and plumbing engineer Campos Engineering, involved tapping into a storm water main that runs underneath an adjacent street to supply 100% of irrigation water for the site.

"We determined that [the water main] had water flow even during the dryer summer months," says Van Buren. "So we constructed a holding tank on site and are able to fill it with storm water that would otherwise discharge into the Trinity River." He hopes the system will earn an innovation credit within LEED. The project is currently registered with the USGBC, awaiting assessment for LEED Silver. It would be the first Dallas city building to earn LEED certification.

Van Buren says that even with the green upgrades, the project came within 1% to the initial $60 million budget.

The success of the Jack Evans Police Headquarters has prompted the city to implement a new sustainable development policy that requires all new city buildings 10,000 sf or larger funded with municipal bonds to attain LEED Silver or better.

"The most significant outcome of this project is that we're going to pursue sustainable development on some 30 new facilities in the current bond program," says Van Buren. "We've certainly sharpened our skills this time around and will benefit from being able to start from the beginning of design next time."

As for the development impact of the new facility, PSA's Dean Roberts says it has given a kick start to the old industrial area, notably through the conversion of the Sears distribution center into loft apartments, commercial offices, and retail by developer Matthews Southwest, Lewisville, Tex. "The idea was that if the city builds a $50 million facility, the benefit back to the city is much more than that, because of the impact it has on the neighborhood," says Roberts.

Construction Costs

Site work $526,466
Shell 23,872,211
Finishes 13,705,766
Telecommunications 962,084
Interiors 4,210,307
Landscape/hardscape 2,241,182
Audio-visual 650,344
Garage modifications 169,309
TOTAL $46,337,669