The final touches are being put on what soon will be the new Monroe Police Department and Municipal Courts at 140 Blane Street. Plans for the move began back in 2016 when Monroe City Administrator Logan Propes came up with the idea to revitalize the east side of the city, beginning with what had been the old Walton Plaza. The City subsequently purchased the old Walton Plaza in 2017 and decided that the old Food Lion building would be the perfect one to revitalize to house a new police department and municipal courts.
Prior to the city purchasing the property, it had stood vacant for almost two decades.
“The Food Lion space dates to 1996 and we believe it operated for four or five years there. It was the building in the best shape so naturally it was the best candidate for rehabilitation,” Propes said.
The $1.5 million purchase was for the whole shopping center, which included three buildings on 8.839 acres – the largest portion being the old Food Lion building. An additional $3.6 million in bonds were issued through the new Urban Redevelopment Authority to renovate the old Food Lion building and redevelop it into the public safety facility. Although the original plan was to have it completed by the summer of 2019, things don’t always go according to plan. And then when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, plans were again delayed. But they are now back on track and Central Services Manager Chad Gravette said the plan is to move into the new building by the summer.
“We hope to have everything completed and moved in by the first of June,” Gravette said, adding “I am very proud of how it has turned out.”
And things look pretty close to meeting that deadline. In a tour of the new Police Department and Municipal Court building, Gravette showed that the electrics are all in and Internet services are up and running – just individual connectivity needs to be completed. There also needs to be some outside parking lot improvements and security fencing erected.
“Final design and location of fencing and gates are still pending, so we may or may not have the fence erected by then,” Gravett said. The building itself gives much more room for the police department to spread out a little as well as some open space for growth when needed. It is more than three times the space currently occupied by the police department and municipal court building.
“The new building is 34,080 square feet. The old building is 9,312 square feet,” Gravette said. The new police department building also has several notable upgrades from the current building.
“The vehicle processing/garage, locker rooms with showers, and four holding cells are all noteworthy upgrades,” Gravette said. Also of note is a gym on the property and the K-9 officers also have their own quarters in the building. A training room is state-of-the-art with a dry erase wall painted with magnetic paint. There are restrooms and a break room for the staff and an office for the police chief as well as one for an assistant chief. There are facilities for the patrol staff, the detectives as well as secure evidence facilities and interview rooms with one-way viewing.
The new Municipal Courtroom has avant-garde lighting with speakers from the ceiling that will help carry voices from the bench. Besides the judge’s bench, witness box and clerk’s desk, surrounding the courtroom there also are rooms that include the judges chamber, a solicitors office, attorney conference rooms and holding cells.
Although the rest of the building has not yet been renovated, there already are some additional renovations beginning on the building adjacent to the courts. Officials, however, have not said what they plan to do with the rest of that building.
“We would first like to propose an exterior and roofing renovation to stabilize the old group of buildings and match the new Police Department,” Propes said. “However, the extent of the work is dependent upon funding. We have not yet taken this to Council as we are still working on master planning the site, including outparcels, and of course just standing up the new Police Department and Municipal Court.”
Plans for the old police department and court building downtown are also not yet known, but officials point out that this move does open up some prime real estate property in the heart of downtown for future retail, restaurant or recreational development. It also opens up some much needed parking space off Wayne Street, an area that is also now undergoing some redevelopment.