New Police Station Exploration

City Council Takes First Step Towards Acquiring Office Building for Adaptive Reuse as a New Police Facility

Current Conditions and Need
Public safety is important to Lake Forest residents, affirmed by 95% of Community-Wide Survey respondents ranking overall safety as a very important factor when choosing to live in Lake Forest. The Lake Forest Police Department currently operates out of the Public Safety Building at 255 W. Deerpath. The building was constructed in the 1960s as a combined facility for the Police and Fire Departments and continues to house personnel, vehicles and equipment for both departments today. As we look to the future, the current building is not adequate to meet the space needs of both departments.     

It is critical for Fire Stations to be centrally located near residential neighborhoods and commercial areas to allow emergency vehicles, fire trucks and ambulances, to respond from the station, quickly. Due to the nature of policing operations, police officers are routinely patrolling throughout the community, and as a result, a centralized location is not necessary. Once a new Police Facility is available, the Fire Department will have the benefit of additional space in the existing public safety building to better support the department’s needs and operations.   

Exploration Process 
Earlier this year, the City Council identified a new police station as a priority and staff began evaluating possible locations for a new police facility. The search focused on sites that could accommodate the specialized needs of a Police Facility without conflicting with existing uses or development in the surrounding area, and without negatively impacting the community’s character. 

Studies were conducted of police facilities recently constructed in other nearby communities. The costs associated with land acquisition, new construction, and adaptive reuse of existing buildings was researched. Following the approach successfully taken by other communities, the focus turned to considering opportunities for adaptive reuse of existing buildings for primarily three reasons: 1) significant cost savings can be achieved by adaptively reusing an existing building as opposed to building new, and 2) the unprecedented availability of office buildings due to the current depressed state of the office real estate market, and 3) reuse of existing buildings is more sustainable than building new.

Description of the Building and Site – 1925 Field Court
Focus of the search quickly turned to available office buildings in Conway Park. City staff walked through and researched available buildings. The three story, 98,304 square foot building at 1925 Field Court was determined to provide the greatest opportunity for adaptive reuse to meet the City’s needs. Although the building exceeds the currently anticipated square footage needed for a Police Facility, it provides flexibility for the future and opens the door for discussions with other public safety agencies that may be interested in available office space. 

Built in 2008, the building lends itself to configuring both publicly accessible and secured areas both inside the building and outside. The building has a full underground garage with 66 parking spaces which is optimum for police vehicles and provides for secure and safe passage into the building. The underground garage could also accommodate some specialized needs of a Police Facility. An added benefit to the location is the proximity of the building to the City’s Municipal Services Facility where police vehicles are maintained and fueled.

The Unique Economic Opportunity
The City has the unique financial opportunity to acquire the vacant office building at 1925 Field Court for a competitive price of $3.5 million (or $36 per square foot of office space) and renovate it into a police station. The property sold for $17.5 million in 2018 and was appraised at $12.5 million in 2022. The economically advantageous proposed purchase price would not have been possible five years ago and likely won’t be possible 3-5 years from now. In alignment with the City’s commitment to financial stewardship and environmental sustainability, adaptive reuse is more cost-effective and environmentally responsible than constructing a new facility.

Next Steps
At the City Council Meeting on Monday, April 15, 2024, the Council approved various actions related to the potential acquisition of the three-story office building located at 1925 Field Court for adaptive reuse as a new police facility. One of the actions was executing a Purchase and Sale Agreement, which allows the City to continue its due diligence assessment of the property to determine if the building is a viable option for a new police station.

Over the next 90 days, the City will conduct its due diligence on the property, including conducting a Whole Building and Site Assessment, a Space Needs Analysis, and a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment. The Whole Building and Site Assessment will evaluate the structure of the building, the various mechanical systems, elevators, life safety components, and environmental conditions. The outcome of the Space Needs Analysis will provide the framework for developing plans for buildout of the interior space by identifying essential “must have,” desirable “should have,” and “nice to have” spaces and facilities.

At the end of the due diligence period in July 2024, the City Council will review findings from these various assessments and will decide whether to proceed with acquiring the property at 1925 Field Court for a new police station.

Watch the presentation from the City Council Meeting below or view the presentation slides.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is the City planning for a new police station now?

Project Update: March 5, 2024

Public safety is important to Lake Forest residents, affirmed by 95% of Community-Wide Survey respondents ranking overall safety as a very important factor when choosing to live in Lake Forest. The Lake Forest Police Department currently operates out of the Public Safety Building on Deerpath, which was constructed in the 1960s as a combined facility for the Police and Fire Departments. As we look to the future, the current building is not adequate to meet the space needs of both departments.     

As law enforcement has changed over the years, the City has taken creative measures to adapt and renovate the space to meet the police department’s evolving needs. In order to maintain the highest level of public safety services, the police department needs a new police station designed to accommodate modern police practices, technology, training, and equipment.

There are inherent challenges with planning for a new police station, including identifying available land or a building that could be adapted to this use. It’s important to ensure that this project is done in a fiscally responsible manner, and once completed, will serve the community long into the future. 

Unique market conditions make it financially advantageous to begin discussions about a new police station now instead of in the future, particularly in light of the importance of public safety expressed in the Community Survey.

What are the challenges with the current police station?

A modern facility would be large enough to meet the current needs of police employees and the community; equipped with state-of-the-art design, technology, and equipment to make work more efficient; and adaptable to future trends and space needs for whatever the future holds.

The current Public Safety Building wasn’t designed to accommodate modern police practices, technology, training, and equipment. Along with insufficient training space and evidence storage, the building’s inefficient floor plan makes transporting detainees difficult. The Sally Port - intended for processing detainees – only has room to process one person at a time and isn’t tall enough to accommodate some squad vehicles. The social worker doesn’t have a private office to provide counseling services. Detectives and patrol officers don’t have dedicated office spaces for private conversations with victims, witnesses, and fellow officers.

The current Public Safety Building is 34,000 square feet and is shared by the police and fire departments. Many of the critical building deficiencies have a direct correlation with the amount of space required for modern police operations. The table below outlines the existing conditions that present challenges and the opportunity a new police station could provide.

Category Current Conditions Desired Conditions
Training Center
  • Existing training room can only accommodate only 18 students and must be shared between police and fire.
  • Additional training spaces have been retrofitted from other uses, so the sizes and spaces are limited in what they can accommodate.
  • Training spaces need to provide greater flexibility for different types of training programs, including classroom, defensive tactics, and scenario-based training.
  • Multi-purpose training room to accommodate up to 120 people.
  • Better training facilities will help attract and retain the best police officers to work here.
  • Public training/community room accessed off the lobby, not in the secure part of the building for things like the Citizens Police Academy.
Investigative Support Areas
  • The building was built without space for detectives. Over the years, different spaces were repurposed for detectives. Now in a shared cubicle area there is a team of five detectives, a commander, a social worker and management analyst, plus rotating detective(s) from regional agencies.
  • Soundproof private offices for detectives to conduct investigations, have private phone calls without interrupting other officers, and conduct private meetings without being overheard.
  • A new police facility would have a separate area between detective offices, meeting rooms, and interview spaces. 
Social Services
  • The social services office is in a very public location just off the main lobby, which creates privacy concerns when working with victims or persons in need of counseling. 
  • In addition to a therapy room in the lobby, other spaces that are behind a layer of security so there is additional privacy and protection for people receiving counseling.

Office Space for Patrol Officers

  • While patrol officers make up a majority of the workforce, they do not have dedicated desk or office space to complete paperwork. Currently, all 30 officers have one shared desk located in the Police Records Office where they file reports. 
  • Patrol officers need private workspaces or offices.
  • A new police facility would allow for officers to have private conversations with victims, witnesses, and fellow officers.
Evidence Storage & Processing Area
  • All evidence must be taken into the basement for processing. There is no ventilation in the processing area or in the storage room.
  • The laboratory area needs major upgrades to take advantage of current advancements/best practices in evidence processing. 
  • A modern evidence processing area is needed so that officers can process, package, and store evidence in an efficient and safe manner. Separate safes are needed for firearms, narcotics, and cash.
Private Meeting Spaces
  • There are few private meeting spaces, and within those spaces, conversations can be easily overheard due to the building’s design.
  • Need significantly more private meeting spaces where a supervisor can discuss sensitive issues with an employee.
Entrance for Offenders (“Sally Port”)
  • If multiple offenders are arrested at the same time, they must be processed one at a time because there is only room to accommodate one vehicle.
  • Larger Sally Port that can accommodate all sizes of vehicles and has capacity for multiple vehicles.
Emergency Operations Center
  • The Emergency Operations Center is currently located in the basement at Municipal Services, away from police and fire personnel, and out of range of police radios.
  • If the Emergency Operations Center was housed in a new police facility, there would be the necessary equipment and support rooms for an all hazards incident that would span several days. 

Parking

  • There is no secure parking area; the back parking lot is accessible to the public.
  • Limited capacity since the police and fire department share a parking lot.
  • Only 10 visitor parking spaces.
  • Need secure parking facility that isn’t accessible to the
  • Additionally, indoor secure parking for vehicles being held for evidence to be processed away from the elements.
  • Bigger parking lot for visitors.

Gun Range

  • The station currently has a 20-meter range, which limits the types of weapons that can be used.
  • Every extra meter of width and/or length for a range can accommodate different uses.
  • Many incidents occur with an officer shooting from a car, so a range with capacity to drive on cars helps officers better train for real-world scenarios.

Locker Room and Workforce Support Areas

  • Patrol officers do not have an office or permanent desk space, so the locker room serves as a de-facto office space to store gear, equipment, uniforms, etc.
  • With a growing number of female officers, need better facilities to accommodate both genders.
  • Locker rooms designed for modern technology and equipment. Lockers need a power source to charge equipment such as radios, flashlights, and body cameras, as well as capacity to expand in in the future when other equipment may be required.
  • Private bathrooms rather than communal bathrooms.
  • A private space for nursing mothers that’s more than a retrofitted closet and better locker room facilities.
How old is the current police station?

The Public Safety Building was constructed in the 1960s as a combined facility for the police and fire departments. The original design of the station is not optimal for police services today and is critically deficient in several areas. As we look to the future, the current building is not adequate to meet the space needs of both departments. As policing has changed over the years, the City has taken creative measures to adapt and renovate the space to meet the police department’s evolving needs. It’s become clear that in order to maintain the highest level of public safety services, the Police Department needs a new police facility designed to accommodate modern police practices, technology, training, and equipment.

Why use an existing facility instead of building a new one?

Earlier this year, studies were conducted of police facilities recently constructed in other nearby communities. The costs associated with land acquisition, new construction, and adaptive reuse of existing buildings was researched. Following the approach successfully taken by other communities, the focus turned to considering opportunities for adaptive reuse of existing buildings for primarily three reasons: 1) significant cost savings can be achieved by adaptively reusing an existing building as opposed to building new, 2) the unprecedented availability of office buildings due to the current depressed state of the office real estate market, and 3) reuse of existing buildings is more sustainable than building new.

Given the shifting commercial office space real estate environment, the City has the unique financial opportunity to acquire an existing office building for a competitive price and renovate it into a police station. Adaptive reuse of an existing building would save millions of dollars compared to the high costs of purchasing land and constructing a new building.

In alignment with the City’s commitment to financial stewardship and environmental sustainability, adaptive reuse is more cost-effective and environmentally responsible than constructing a new facility.

How would the police department use the building at 1925 Field Court?

The three story, 98,304 square foot building at 1925 Field Court is larger than the police station’s current footprint. The police department has outgrown its current facility and needs additional space to continue modern police operations. Although the building exceeds the currently anticipated square footage needed for a police facility, it provides flexibility for the future and opens the door for discussions with other public safety agencies that may be interested in available office space. 

While the need for a new facility is clear, exactly how a new space will be designed has not been determined. A Space Needs Analysis will identify essential "need to have" elements of a modern police facility, desired “should have,” and “nice to have” spaces and components. Planning for the buildout of the interior would occur as a next step in this process, over the course of several months. The planning process will engage residents with relevant expertise and invite opinions, ideas, and questions from the community as has traditionally occurred with significant projects such as the Water Treatment Plant expansion project and most recently, the Deerpath Community Park Athletic Fields. 

Does a police station need to be centrally located?

It is critical for Fire Stations to be centrally located near residential neighborhoods and commercial areas to allow emergency vehicles, fire trucks and ambulances, to respond from the station, quickly. Due to the nature of policing operations, police officers are routinely patrolling throughout the community, and as a result, a centralized location is not necessary. Once a new Police Facility is available, the Fire Department will have the benefit of additional space in the existing public safety building to better support the department’s needs and operations.    

What are the next steps in the evaluation process?

At the City Council Meeting on Monday, April 15, 2024, the Council approved various actions related to the potential acquisition of the three-story office building located at 1925 Field Court for adaptive reuse as a new police facility. 

Over the next 90 days, the City will conduct its due diligence on the property, including conducting a Whole Building and Site Assessment, a Space Needs Analysis, and a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment. 

At the end of the due diligence period in July 2024, the City Council will review findings from these various assessments and will decide whether to proceed with acquiring the property at 1925 Field Court for a new police station.

New Police Facility Exploration Timeline 6.3.24

Why can't you just renovate the current police station?

Over the years, it has become clear that the existing building is working against the police department. Not only is the building too small, but the design of the building is limiting the police department's operations and will negatively impact operations in the years ahead. The existing building footprint does not allow for increased parking and is not a sustainable option for current use or future police department growth. Additionally, options to expand are limited given the facility is shared with the fire department. The existing space and design do not meet the needs of modern policing today and will not meet future needs of police department operations.

What would happen to the current Public Safety Building?

The police and fire departments currently operate out of the Public Safety Building. If the police department moves to another location, the fire department would be able to expand operations into the full building. The fire department would absorb the vacated spaces into their operations, using the police areas for training and expanded meeting rooms, and remodel spaces to fit current and future needs.

How will the City fund a new police station?

Acquisition of the property could be financed using existing financial reserves. The City has engaged a consultant to conduct a Space Needs Analysis to provide an estimate of buildout costs. Once that report is complete, there can be an informed conversation about the costs associated with renovating the building to meet the department’s needs now and into the future.

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