Dear Mr. Bonfield,
I read with great interest the article in the Herald-Sun which reported that you were in the process of presenting a plan for replacing the headquarters of the Durham Police Department. In this process, as a citizen I hope you consider colocating the Police Department with City Hall by replacing the City Hall Annex, originally built as the police headquarters, with a prominent civic building facing Chapel Hill St. In your role as City Manager, I realize that you have a number of concerns to take into consideration, and I certainly understand that there may be construction, logistical, or financial considerations which would override such a choice. However, as the private sector continues to redevelop downtown, I believe that this is an excellent opportunity for the city government to increase its presence both in human and architectural terms.
The current City Hall Annex represents, in my humble opinion, an architectural and site plan mistake that's served out its useful life. It dates from a time when we thought downtown would be revitalized by opening up large amounts of surface parking and converting blocks to suburban land uses. All of us have come to agree that this was probably a mistake, but we are still left with the architectural relics of this period. Simple budget considerations and careful stewardship of city funds dictate that we shouldn't toss these aside carelessly, but I believe that this represents not only an opportunity for the city to use its existing assets to solve a municipal problem, but an opportunity to improve the life of the city.
The current building is a low density use in a high density area; a building designed for automobile traffic in a time when we're trying to encourage pedestrians in the area; a design that turns its visually unappealing service entrances towards the intersection of two of the major streets of the center city; and a situation that shuns Rotary Park, rather than open onto it.
A new Durham Police headquarters could replace the existing facility with a considerably larger building, not only by matching City Hall in height but by expanding its footprint to cover more of the wedge of land that it sits on. Inded, if the plan were to correspond with the planned re-routing of the downtown loop, an architect would have even more room to expand into towards the east. A better design could face Rotary Park, and greet drivers coming down Mangum St. into town with a prominant, stately facade rather than the rampart-like back wall of the current City Hall Annex.
Again, I realize that many considerations will go into this process, but I ask you to consider the City Hall Annex site, both to bring more workers into the downtown core and to improve that block's interaction with the rest of the downtown core.
Michael T. Bacon