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Allentown unveils $28 million plan to rehabilitate police headquarters, with addition that would double square footage

Architect's rendering of the new Allentown police station. (Handout photo courtesy of Alloy5)
Architect’s rendering of the new Allentown police station. (Handout photo courtesy of Alloy5)
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Allentown wants to both rehabilitate and build an addition to its police headquarters, a plan that would double the amount of square footage and cost at least $28 million, city officials said.

The city has long called for extensive renovations or replacement to its police station on 425 Hamilton St., which was constructed in 1963. According to police Chief Charles Roca, the building is not equipped for a modern police force: It can barely fit the officers that work out of the building currently, and more than half work out of a patrol station six blocks away on Hamilton Street.

A feasibility study conducted by architecture firm Alloy5 also found “critical” problems with the building’s American Disabilities Act compliance, fire protection and sally port, which is a secure, controlled entryway into the station’s holding rooms.

The building’s heating had also been broken since late December, although it was restored this week.

Bethlehem-based Alloy5 on Wednesday laid out the findings of a six-month feasibility study, which recommends that the city spend $28 million to $37 million to rehabilitate the building and construct a 22,500-square-foot addition.

“You will see a vision that I fully stand behind and support so that Allentown can be on the forefront of modernization to provide effective and constitutional policing to our residents,” Roca said at a Wednesday City Council meeting.

The building addition along Hamilton Street will have a plaza area with both a stairway and disability accessible ramp leading to the building’s main entrance. The existing building is behind a pedestrian bridge and large, empty, concrete plaza, largely obscuring it from view from the road, so the new plaza would make the building more visible and welcoming to visitors, according to Bekah Rusnock, director of development for Alloy5.

The Allentown police headquarters building is seen Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in Allentown. (Amy Shortell/첥Ƶ)
The Allentown police headquarters building is seen Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in Allentown. (Amy Shortell/첥Ƶ)

“There’s some population in Allentown that doesn’t even know where the police station is,” Rusnock said.

The addition, which would be constructed in front of the building, would also feature a large glass facade and a mural with public art reflecting “Allentown police pride,” officials said. The expansion of the space would allow all of Allentown’s 212 police officers to work out of the same building, and have enough space for 250 officers should the force expand, so the city is likely to sell the patrol station building at 10th and Hamilton when construction on the new station is complete, Roca said.

The city also would rebuild the pedestrian bridge connecting the parking garage to the city hall plaza, and construct an additional bridge for police officers’ use only between the garage and the new station.

The new police building would take around two years to complete: The planning and approval process would take around 10 months, and construction 12-18 months, according to the feasibility study. The city would likely work on the construction in phases, with the addition first so that officers could continue to work out of the existing station, then move into the new building while renovations are underway, Randy Galiotto, principle architect at Alloy5, said.

To finance the new building, the city would likely issue bonds late this year or in early 2025, city Finance Director Bina Patel said. Allentown has already budgeted $4 million in American Rescue Plan funds in the 2024 budget to go toward the project, which will allow it to kick off the development and approval process.

A similar feasibility study is underway for the city’s Central Fire Station, which has structural issues like roof leaks, pests and a crumbling facade, and its findings will be presented this year.

Reporter Lindsay Weber can be reached at Liweber@mcall.com.

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