AUSTIN (KXAN) — City leaders are considering a proposal to do away with the Austin Police Department’s downtown headquarters and use the property for something else.
Austin’s Public Safety Commission heard feedback Tuesday afternoon on ideas for what could replace the building, when decommissioned.
The idea of moving APD’s headquarters has been tossed around for years. The aging building has issues with plumbing and asbestos.
Council Member Jimmy Flannigan says as city council members were recently discussing moving funds from the police budget around, “It was a good opportunity to remind the folks and remind staff that this is something that we could do and should do now.”
As part of the city’s new mission to “reimagine public safety,” Flannigan wants to use the high-dollar property along Interstate 35 at 8th Street to address systemic inequalities.
“There could be affordable housing,” he said. “There could be workforce development. There could be community space. There could be art space.”
Some suggestions Austin’s Public Safety Commission heard Tuesday were to include a hub for nonprofits that work downtown or providing a centralized space for all first responders working the downtown sector.
“There have been discussions over the years about moving the APD Headquarters. We look forward to re-engaging in those discussions,” APD said in a statement sent to KXAN.
Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday says his concern is moving too quickly without a solid plan.
“Right now, if you just said, ‘Okay, you’ve got to move out of headquarters,’ people would be spread all over the city,” Casaday said.
Flannigan proposes moving officers to open office space in existing city buildings like the One Texas Center or soon-to-be vacant Austin Energy building, both on Barton Springs Road.
Casaday says it’s important that officers who work downtown, especially those on bikes, are more centrally located. He also says some units can’t afford to split up.
“You have homicide, robbery, cold case and a bunch of other units that work closely together every day. They have to be together,” Casaday said.
The city’s Public Safety Commission and Public Safety Committee plan to continue taking public input from a number of stakeholders for ideas on what could replace the current police headquarters building. The city manager has been directed by council to come up with a timeline and process for moving forward.