New police station is now running ahead of schedule to open in April
Work continues on the former youth hostel in Allentown to convert the building into the new Zone 3 police station. Police officials are confident the building will be open in early April. The exterior will feature tile panels where the former entrance was featuring city and police crests and public art covering the windows. There will be a meeting in Allentown for all Zone 3 residents to discuss the public art.
Construction is proceeding as planned and is even a little ahead of schedule for the conversion of Allentown's former hostel building into the Zone 3 police station.
The necessary demolition, interior wall construction and plumbing work are completed, John Warren, police project manager, told attendees at the Allentown Community Development Corp. meeting held Feb. 26 at the Allentown Senior Center. Work on the fire, fiber, security and electrical systems and the flooring is continuing, he said during his update.
The date for the grand opening, expected to happen in mid-April, has not yet been set and is dependent on the delivery of the furniture, gym equipment, radios, computers and lockers.
The outside of the station will reflect the spirit and involvement of the community, Mr. Warren said; "It is not a fort." Pittsburgh artist Kim Beck will design art work which will be placed on the first floor windows of the station with two panels each placed on the Warrington and Arlington Avenues sides of the building.
Ms. Beck, who was chosen by a panel of residents and others, wants to meet Zone 3 residents to get feedback at 7 p.m. March 3 at the Allentown Senior Center, 631 E. Warrington Avenue. She wants to hear favorite family and neighborhood stories and wants to learn what the residents' vision of their neighborhood is.
Ms. Beck did research on the building and toured the neighborhood, Liz Style, who attended the panel sessions, said. "Her energy level is high. I think she really wants community input for her preliminary designs. She wants to know what you would like to see."
Mr. Warren thanked Councilman Bruce Kraus, who attended the Allentown CDC meeting, for his support.
He said he hoped to have a "punch list" by April 2 to check and to see that everything has been accomplished. Moving from the current Zone 3 station along 18th Street to the revamped Allentown building should take several days, from April 4 through April 12.
Completed so far as part of Mr. Warren's timeline are: the preliminary design and plans, granting of state waivers for accessibility issues, review by city and police officials, bid advertisements and awarding of bid contracts.
The hostel's front door is gone and will be replaced by ceramic tile displaying the Pittsburgh Police and city crests. Public access to the building will be on the Arlington Avenue
side and the walls and glass of the foyer will be bullet resistant. "Visitors will be buzzed in. We can lock them in if we need to do business," Mr. Warren said. There will be a roll call area on the first floor for the police force. The building retains the hostel's elevator that once was a safe when the building was used as a bank.
The officers' fitness room or gym will be located on the second floor, along with the women's locker room and office for the community affairs police officers. At some point the City Bureau of Building Inspection will have an office there, with two investigators.
Mr. Warren said the floor was checked to make sure it could hold the capacity of the Nautilus weights and equipment. "It is top-of-the-line quality equipment," he said. "It is absolutely amazing," Mr. Kraus added.
The third floor is the location for the men's locker room and the detectives' interview room, which will have its windows covered by metal grating.
Mr. Warren answered a resident's question and said the building has no holding cells for prisoners. Instead, prisoners can be transported to the county jail or the west end station or can be shackled to the floor in the station's interview room.
The former hostel's kitchen on the fourth floor is now a file room and will also hold officers' "jackets" or personnel files. The floor also has the commander's office, space for clerks and a break room for officers with tables, chairs, microwave and vending machines. A designated "community room" features TVs, DVD and computers.
"Can community meetings be held there?" someone asked. It is up to the commander and Officer Christine Luffey, Mr. Warren responded. "The idea of the room is to increase community and police interaction."
Pictures of what the building looked like when it was a hostel and a bank will be on display in the community room.
"What's in the basement?" someone else asked. "Dehumidifiers. You can't use it for much," Mr. Warren said. Someone else joked that they thought that was where all the money was buried when the building was a bank.
A temporary parking lot should be installed no later than October and a permanent lot with 51 spaces should be finished by 2010. "It will be nicely fenced with three lights and security cameras." He was asked and he told the prices of the homes that were purchased to be torn down to facilitate putting in the lot. $100,000 for one, $85,000 for another and $53,000 for another.
Mr. Kraus and Judy Hackel, Allentown CDC president, thanked Mr. Warren for his hard work.
In neighborhood news, Mrs. Hackel said Allegheny County had 120 homicides last year and the Hilltop had 12 of them or 10 percent of the homicides in the entire county. Arlington Heights, St. Clair Village and Allentown were also leaders in property crime.
"The Hilltop is becoming a mess and a half…No one will rescue us until we insist on it." She said Allentown has had few calls to police reporting crimes and she would like to see more happen.
Councilman Kraus spoke of the importance of having a state law mandating that thefts of guns be reported within a short time period. "Someone with a clean record buys a gun, trades it for drugs or sells to someone without a clean record. When it is used in a crime and is traced back, they say, ‘Oh, I must have lost it.'"
Reading, Lancaster, Pottsville and Pittsburgh passed such legislation and Mr. Kraus met recently with Erie council. "We reversed our strategy. When enough municipalities pass it, we'll go back to the state legislature (which resisted passing the law) and say, ‘You can't ignore this any more.'"
He urged community groups to write officials and urge that the law be passed.
Mr. Kraus also recommended that Mrs. Hackel get Jill Rustin, of the city police's firearms tracking department, to speak to the Allentown CDC. She gave a presentation on the issue in October for the Upper Knoxville Block Watch.
Mrs. Hackel hopes to get the Port Authority to send speakers to a meeting. She said she heard that the Port Authority hopes to get stimulus money to repair Warrington Avenue.
Mr. Kraus mentioned snow removal. He said he thought the city public works crews "didn't do bad this year." His chief of staff, Ken Wolfe, said the councilman's office received 30 calls this winter. Mr. Kraus said he went out after one snowfall and "found trouble spots and called them in."