Background and Context
Redevelopment of this 5-acre parcel marks the renewal of under utilized acreage in Hartford’s historic Clay Arsenal-Albany Avenue neighborhood. Driven by facilities that had reached the end of their useful purpose and a desire by the City to create greater efficiency in operations, the City embarked on development of a public safety complex that would bring together Hartford’s police, fire, dispatch and emergency operations into a single state-of-the-art location.
The site is a 5.7-acre parcel which slopes from east to west and is bordered to the south by a 19th century historic landmark, to the east and south by Walnut and High Streets and to the west by railroad tracks. Surrounding structures, primarily brick and brownstone, are part of the Clay Arsenal-Albany Avenue neighborhood – an area of the City that was adversely impacted when the construction of Interstate 84 created a physical barrier to the Central Business District. Given the importance of minimizing police and fire response times and the importance of emergency operation functions, the site’s central location was ideal. Selection of this location also provided the opportunity to reconnect to and reinvest in the City’s North End.
Operational requirements and site restrictions drove development of a compact building. The project required separate access points for public and secure functions and the accommodation of structured and surface parking.
The 150,000 square foot building utilized the replication of the historic Second North District School as inspiration for materials, form and proportions. This structure, which now contains Fire Department command and Fire Marshall’s office, is immediately adjacent to High Street, with main public access to the east and to the secure access to the west. Set back from High Street, and separated by parking, is the public entrance and the police headquarters building. With large windows and impressive columns, this building is at once secure and at the same time welcoming. To the left of the entrance is a memorial plaza, which commemorates members of police and fire who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Organizationally, the building is set up around the public functions including front desk, records, credit union and police briefing room; from that point, all other spaces are arranged in order to maintain separate circulation paths, building security and proper chain of evidence and custody. During a crisis or natural disaster, the building is designed to allow emergency operations, police and fire functions to be maintained with no impact to the quality of services and performance.
In order to maintain parity between police and fire functions, an extensive effort to develop standards was undertaken during schematic design. Dialogue with police and fire union representatives ensured their requirements would be incorporated. These space standards were utilized throughout the project, in particular when there were changes in the command staff and the team needed to bring individuals up to speed on the logic behind the building’s organization and design.
The project is made up of 4 functional areas and shared amenities
Police: 100,000 square feet. Police command staff, central police station, briefing rooms, motorcycle patrol
Fire: 40,000 square feet. Fire command staff, Fire Marshall
Emergency Operation Center: Operations center and briefing room are utilized in a crisis or natural disaster. This flexible space provides a technology rich environment for first responders, City leadership, command staff and others to collaborate on a moment-by-moment basis.
Dispatch/Emergency Communications: 5,000 square feet for 911 and 511 dispatch.
Shared Spacdes: Great effort was taken to provide daylight into interior spaces; workout and locker rooms for staff; acoustic panels in the lobby were designed to include 19th century photos on police and fire service; the lobby was designed to be welcoming to the public and to present a warm street presence in the evening hours.
replication of the historic Second North District School
public entrance and the police headquarters building
Because police and fire command functions as well as dispatch and EOC functions would be required to be in operation during catastrophe, the structure is designed to withstand a category-5 event. Appropriate technology was integrated to ensure the ability to maintain proper chain of custody and evidence.
Compiling the maximum site area required the City to purchase a number of brownfield properties. In order to expedite the construction, the project was bid in phases so work could begin as soon as possible. Over the course of the project’s design, there were changes in the command staff that caused a reevaluation of some design features. Utilizing a strategy around these early release packages, design review was undertaken without impacting the schedule. JCJ Architecture worked collaboratively with Gilbane Building Company in the review of bid packages and development of cost and schedule control strategies.
JCJ’s design addressed the complex operational needs of these departments, provided parity between their programs and integrated them effectively into a single facility on a compact urban location.
Since taking occupancy, there has been significant reinvestment in the neighborhood, opening up of park land, development of formerly empty and unused parcels and a greater focus on the unique and historic Isham-Terry house. There is a new experience traveling along High and Walnut Streets as well as new impression looking at the North End from Downtown and traveling eastbound on I-84. The building provides these public safety programs and functions a solid, identifiable and welcoming presence in the community.
Uniformed and civilian personnel now have a modern, bright, durable, welcoming and easily maintained facility. Employees now have technology, systems, spaces and functional relationships that will allow them to effectively and securely perform in their roles. The scale, organization and materials have rebranded these services within the City and literally made these services more approachable, visible and accessible to the community.
Delivery: Design / Bid / Build