Jersey City may soon get a new Public Safety Headquarters now that the Jersey City Council introduced an ordinance for the $120 million project.
The new headquarters will be in Jackson Square at MLK Drive and Kearny Avenue and will include 911 dispatch operations, fire department, police department, and parking enforcement divisions.
Should the council adopt the ordinance on second reading, the city would be permitted to enter into a 25-to-30-year lease agreement. Construction could begin in six months.
The centralized location will streamline operations, according to Public Safety Director James Shea.
“Police, fire, and parking all used to be separate,” Shea said. “They had separate missions, and they supported each other, but really they were separate. With the new challenges that are going on in the world, terrorism, active shooters, everything else, they work together a lot more. Even fires have become more complex, as we have more high rises, which require crowd control, which require safety officers. So putting all of our chief decision-makers in the same building is going to make them interact on a daily basis, and if there is a critical incident, we have everybody together.”
With the chiefs and high-ranking officials in one place, Shae said that there would be redundancies in place, as there are now, in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack.
With the public safety leadership in Jackson Square, the new site will boast police presence 24/7.
The relocation of the 911 dispatch operations will reconfigure the city’s call system to eliminate steps in dispatching emergency personnel to urgent calls. This streamlines the process, improving emergency services and response times where every second counts, Shea said.
“We respond well within our time, but seconds matter, and we saw this as an opportunity to get seconds back,” Shea said.
The new Public Safety Headquarters will use LEED architects to incorporate green elements into the building’s design, including a green roof, solar panels, and bioswales. It will also have a community room.
According to Shea, the new headquarters will make it easier for residents applying for a street fair permit because they need the various divisions of public safety to sign off on it. Currently, they are all in separate buildings.
The project will cost an estimated $120 million and be approximately 120,000 square feet. Under the plan, investment firm Brandywine will build the facility and lease it back to the city in a 25-to-30-year agreement, at the end of which the city would be able to purchase the property for $1.
According to council documents, the city would pay $4,599,996 each year for the first three years before it would increase to $6,553,832 and gradually increase every year thereafter.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said with this arrangment, the facility will get built quickly and be completed by 2022.
He compared it to the construction of the city hall annex that took only two years to build through Brandywine, compared to that of the city’s West District Precinct, which was built in 10 years.
Fulop said, in the long run, the city will save money because it will no longer need to rent and could sell some of its existing public safety properties.
The city will save $350,000 per year on rent for the current Police Department Headquarters in Journal Square and could sell Fire Headquarters, South Street Fire Union Offices, and the Gong Club for a total possible revenue of $30 million.
These properties will go back on the tax rolls every year, not only for the city budget, but also contribute to the school budget.
“We’re paying about $350,000 now in rent, and then we have properties that are not used to their best-case scenarios,” Fulop said. “Look at where the fire headquarters is, we’re gonna put ratables on there, which will be substantial for the city,” adding that it would still be possible to keep an engine house on the premises.
“This will ultimately put everyone under one roof,” Fulop said. “We’ll no longer be renting space, we’ll be owning our own assets.”
Fulop said creating Jackson Square city campus, where headquarters will be, will help stimulate the economy of the area and bring in more businesses and jobs.
He said that prior to the city’s investment, the area had seen several supermarkets come and go because businesses couldn’t support themselves, and retail space was hard to fill.
“We figured with the city hall annex we would save money because we were renting spaces initially and it would act as a driver for more economic activity,” Fulop said. “In four to five years it will look and feel very different. It will be a benefit to homeowners and residents.”
He said it will not only bring city jobs but eventually businesses will open to help support the daily employees of the area, such as those in restaurants and cafes.
Phase 1 of the Jackson Square Hub opened in the Fall of 2018, with two new buildings already home to the Department of Housing, Economic, Development and Commerce, as well as Health and Human Services.
Then the new Public Safety Headquarters and a new building for the city’s new Division of Affordable Housing will be constructed.
Jackson Square will be a $188 million investment from the city.