D.C. eyes new jail as part of ‘Justice Center Campus’

The District is weighing the development of a consolidated public safety campus that would house a new jail and police and fire training facilities.

The Department of General Services issued a request for proposals Monday for a contractor to inventory the District’s 80 public safety buildings, develop a 10-year public safety master plan, and conduct a feasibility study for a new “Justice Center Campus.”

The RFP makes clear that “time is of the essence” — that it wants an “immediate preliminary assessment of the viability of a Justice Center Campus” to house a “new jail as well as the training facilities for both” the Metropolitan Police Department and Fire and Emergency Medical Services.

Why the rush? D.C. officials contacted Tuesday couldn’t say.

The chosen consultant — bids are due by Dec. 21 — will identify the programs to be housed at the center, determine gross square footage requirements, analyze the massing and location of such a campus, review three unnamed prospective sites and report any “fatal flaw” considerations, such as extraordinary costs or political challenges.

The existing Central Detention Facility is located at 1901 D St. SE, a half mile from the Stadium-Armory Metro Station on the Reservation 13 campus — also known as the Hill East Waterfront. FEMS trains at 4600 Shepard Parkway SW, while the MPD’s Maurice T. Turner Jr. Academy is located at 4665 Blue Plains Drive SW.

Many of the District’s public safety facilities, including the 36-year-old jail, are deteriorating. A new Central Detention Facility, some D.C. officials say, would be more cost effective than piling money year after year into its rehabilitation.

The idea of a new jail should also tantalize the development community, especially if the District chooses to build elsewhere than Hill East. It would open up a significant chunk of Metro-accessible property for new construction, and erase a stigma that weighs heavily on the campus.

That said, at various points over the last decade, the District has toyed with the idea of relocating the police department from 300 Indiana Ave. NW, moving FEMS and the Department of Corrections out of the Grimke School at 1923 Vermont Ave. NW, and constructing a new jail, perhaps at Buzzard Point (an idea floated by D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells, D-Ward 6).

But save for Grimke, a valuable property adjacent to the U Street Metro Station, those moves have gotten little traction.

The public safety master plan, as envisioned in the RFP, will be used to make “immediate decisions about the appropriateness of certain properties to public safety needs” and make “long term decisions regarding the public safety facilities.”

It will cover all facilities operated or used by the police and fire departments, the Department of Corrections, the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, the Unified Communication Center and the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.


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