Architects Propose New Police Station, Renovated DPS Building To Address Insufficient Space

Mar 18, 2019

Architects have suggested the City of Unalaska build a new police station (above) while overhauling the existing Public Safety building as a dedicated space for fire and emergency medical services.
Credit Jensen Yorba Lott Inc.

Unalaska should build a brand-new police station — in addition to renovating the existing building that's long housed all of local law enforcement.

Those are the preliminary recommendations from Jensen Yorba Lott, the Juneau-based design firm hired to analyze the city's 32-year-old Department of Public Safety building.

It currently includes police, fire, corrections, and more — but architect Corey Wall said that's not working.

"There are too many people in the building," he told the City Council last week. "It's too small. And it doesn't function terribly well either as a police station or a fire station right now."

Wall made a presentation to city officials and Public Safety staff after studying the building's structure and usage over the last three months.

He said it's in pretty good shape for its age. But at 16,000 square-feet, it's only half as big as it should be.

"If we just took a blank piece of paper and said, 'For a fire department of this size, what space should you have?,' we'd come up with an answer of about that big — just shy of 16,000 square feet," said Wall. "So the existing building, as is, is just about the right size for the fire department alone."

Because its roof and location make it difficult to expand, he suggested the city overhaul the building as a dedicated space for firefighters and emergency medical providers.

That would require a new facility for police, corrections, animal control, and all other Public Safety divisions, which need between 18,000 and 19,000 square feet of space.

After studying four potential sites, Wall said his firm has found a good option in the skate park east of the clinic, between Raven Way and Lavelle Court.

"It's large. It's adjacent to City Hall, which we think is a pro. And it's already owned by the city, so you wouldn't have to purchase it," he said. "The cons are: It was formerly a pond, and it's fill of questionable value."

While the proposal met with mostly positive reactions from the council and Public Safety staff, some were concerned about the condition of the land.

"The biggest problem I have with this site is I think it's going to be expensive to develop, simply because of the way that rock was just dumped in on top of a lot of mud," said Vice Mayor Dennis Robinson.

Wall said architects will have a better idea of the total cost after sampling land at the site, though they expect it would take roughly $6.5 million to renovate the existing building — and about twice that to construct a new facility.

Councilors gave the firm the go-ahead to investigate the site further before they make decide whether to commission a full design.

"I think the majority of the council would encourage you to move ahead and do some more investigations, especially into the ground over here and what we could run into," said Mayor Frank Kelty. "We need those answers before we can make our final decision."

The timeline for the potential project is still unclear. But if it does move forward, city officials said they could easily relocate the skate park equipment.