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$20 Million Worth of Leg Room

City Hall extension, police station renovation have 2007 completion date.

This story is part of an occasional series focusing on redevelopment in Fairfax.

Years of planning and re-planning for the new City of Fairfax Police Station and City Hall extension are finally visible, rising from the ground behind the John C. Wood building and City Hall, respectively The $20 million project will add about 60,300 square feet of new building and 29,700 feet of renovated space.

"It's going to be a big jump for the city," said special projects manager Adrian Fremont, who is supervising the City Hall and Police Station renovation projects. All the construction should be finished by summer 2007, she said.

The current plan, with the new Police Station located just behind the old building, is the revision on an original plan that placed both the addition and new Police Station behind City Hall. The plan was set and funds approved in a 2001 bond referendum, said city manager Bob Sisson, but during discussions of the site plans, residents living near City Hall became concerned that a Police Station would overburden the area. These concerns led the City Council to move the planned station from the new City Hall to a plot just behind the John C. Wood building, he said.

THE NEW CITY HALL extension is a two-story building with an attic level of office space, branching off the back of the current City Hall. Elliott Law, senior associate at Moseley Architects, designed the building so that the addition would match the traditional look of the current City Hall.

"Aesthetically, what we are trying to do is maintain the integrity with the existing building," said Law. The cupola atop City Hall will remain the dominant feature, he said, and so the addition will not take over the current building in terms of shape or size. It will be constructed from brick and the slate roof will match City Hall's roof, he said.

From a code standpoint, said Law, City Hall will be one building, but the addition will connect to the original structure with a glass corridor, or link.

"[The link] gives you a break point between the existing building and the new addition," he said. "Instead of a hard wall attaching the addition to something old and historic, you've got a glass transition." The link will also provide an alternate entrance to City Hall, so that people can access both the old and new areas of the building from one point.

The expanded City Hall will provide everyone who works in City Hall with more space, said Fremont, and will help it conform both to its function both as a government building and as court.

"The building wasn't really designed to have court," she said. Currently, the public meeting space that serves as the courtroom and City Council meeting room is located on the third floor. In the renovated City Hall, this space will move to the first floor of the new addition. Building safety will also improve, said Fremont, with a separate secure area for prisoners to enter on court appearances, instead of the public elevator used now.

The new City Council meeting room will have more seating, with flat-panel TV monitors and a better sound system for recording council meetings. The technology for electronic presentations will also be improved, said Fremont.

Beside the public meeting and court space, the first floor will also include the cable TV office, the Parks and Recreation department, and the Community Relations office. The information technology office will also be located on the first floor in both the old and new wings, with public computers so that people can make city transactions online.

The second floor of City Hall will be home to the offices of Community Development and Planning, Public Works, City of Fairfax Fire and Rescue Code Compliance. The Treasurer and Commissioner of Revenue will be in closer proximity to each other on the second floor, as will Planning and Code Compliance, said Fremont, allowing the offices to work together more easily. The offices of City Manager, City Clerk, and Economic Development will be on the third floor.

AFTER THE ADDITION is completed, said Fremont, the city offices that will remain in the old City Hall building will relocate to the John C. Wood building during renovations of the current building. Once the Police Station and City Hall renovations are finished, the John C. Wood building will be demolished. The current parking lot will remain, said Fremont, but the rest of the site will be landscaped.

"This is going to afford a lot of people who have worked for many years in cramped quarters to be more productive," said city manager Bob Sisson.

The new Police Station will finally conform to standards, said Maj. Bill Klugh of the City of Fairfax Police Department. It will be a two-story building with much more space than the current one.

The John C. Wood building was designed as a school, not a police station, said Klugh, and so its security is greatly lacking.

"You can walk right into the police chief's office and not get scanned in any way," said Law. The new building will be outfitted with an electronic security system with features such as closed-circuit television, duress alarms and electronic card readers.

The new Police Station will also have a larger, better-equipped disaster operations center in case of a large emergency in the city, said Klugh, as well as more classroom space to use in training classes through the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Academy. A covered driveway in the rear of the building will allow for prisoner drop-off and storage of police bikes and K9 vehicles, he said.

"One of biggest things with the building we're in now is that it's more than 50 years old," said Klugh. Simple actions like plugging in a computer or turning on the air conditioning will be far less difficult in the new Police Station, he said.

"It's actually going to be a much better-looking building than current building," said Klugh. "It's cinder block now, but it already looks better."