The city of Noblesville is considering building a new headquarters for its police department on a property near downtown that has been vacant for eight years.
The 40,000-square-foot building would be constructed on a 24-acre property commonly known as the Firestone site, on the south side of Division Street near 18th Street.
The building would cost an estimated $13.6 million to $14.1 million. The city is still exploring funding options.
Bridgestone Americas Inc., which acquired Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. in 1988, operated an air-spring manufacturing facility with 300 workers on the property until 2009, when it moved production to Mexico. The site has been vacant since then while Bridgestone worked to address environmental issues.
A Bridgestone spokeswoman said the company has completed an extensive investigation of the property with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but it’s likely that some additional sampling will be required before redevelopment can occur.
The company has been working on a deal with the city to donate the land. If the city does acquire the property, the proposed police headquarters would have to be constructed on top of an existing concrete slab because the slab is considered an impermeable barrier. As long as the city doesn’t dig below it, there is no environmental concern, Noblesville Deputy Mayor Steve Cooke said.
“We would never locate a police station on land that isn’t safe,” Cooke said.
The new headquarters would include interview rooms, property and evidence storage, a laboratory, conference space, a large training room that could be separated into two smaller spaces, a private area for detectives, equipment storage, a locker room and a fitness facility.
Cooke said there isn’t a timeline for the project because it hinges on property discussions with Bridgestone.
Noblesville Chief of Police Kevin Jowitt said the department has needed additional space for more than eight years.
The current police headquarters is located in 14,000 square feet in the Public Safety Building, which was converted from a post office in 1992 when the department had 32 employees. Today, the police department has 95 employees.
Jowitt said the department could use about 26,000 square feet now, and expects to need 40,000 square feet by 2023.
“The way I always think of this is we’re in about half the space now that we need to be, and we’re in about a third of the space that we’re going to need as the city continues to grow over the next six years,” Jowitt said. “We’re very much behind the curve.”
Jowitt said the department even uses a former vending machine room for an office.
“We have just maxed out every single square inch of space we’ve got in that building,” Jowitt said. “We’re past the breaking point, really.”
The Noblesville City Court and Noblesville Fire Department, which also are in the Public Safety Building, would remain after the police moved.
Jowitt said they’ve been discussing options and searching for another location for years. Some of the options they've considered, in addition to doing nothing, were finding a vacant building to remodel and decentralizing the police force into multiple buildings.
“We’ve looked like crazy for existing buildings we could convert,” Jowitt said. “We just have not found a space that screams, ‘build a police department here.’”
He said the Firestone property became the best choice because of its proximity to downtown and the ability to revitalize a site that has become an eyesore.
“It’s really a way to turn what is now kind of an unsightly feature into something that's really pretty attractive,” Jowitt said.
Cooke said it’s a good option because there are not many other uses that could go on the Firestone site given the environmental issues—housing most likely wouldn’t be permitted, and it’s unlikely a commercial developer would be interested.
Bridgestone said it has not been contacted by any developers.
“We think building a police station would be a huge step forward to redeveloping the area, which we think will also lead to other improvements,” Cooke said.