Old armory 'likely' coming down to make more room for the new Public Safety Complex

Three city operations and a United Way agency would have to move


Updated plans for the new Public Safety Complex in Lansing include a proposal to demolish the South Washington Office Complex, affecting three city operations and a United Way service that are housed there.

The city finalized the purchase of a former McLaren of Greater Lansing employee parking lot on Jan.30 as the site of the new building after voters approved a $175 million bond proposal last November.  

The 11.5-acre property is on South Washington Avenue just north of Mt. Hope Avenue, the city’s geographical center. It is adjacent to the South Washington Office Complex, 2500 S. Washington, which is an old National Guard armory.

But after spending $300,000 to buy the lot, contractors and city officials determined the new facility, which will host fire, police and district court operations, needs more space than the parking lot would provide.

Enter the South Washington Office Complex, which sits on just over 8 acres.

Spokesman Scott Bean said the city is "looking at tearing down the South Washington Office Complex in order to increase the potential footprint of the new public safety complex and necessary parking."

He added that the demolition of SWOC is “likely.”

A factor being evaluated in tearing down SWOC is the potential abatement of asbestos in the building, Bean said.

The footprint of the new complex will host more than just police, fire and court offices, according to a March 31 quarterly update from River Caddis, the company contracted by the city as its development manager. Here’s the scope of the Public Safety Complex proposal, as presented by River Caddis Development:

  • New Public Safety Building (new Police Headquarters and lock-up, Fire Administration and Fire Marshal’s Office, and the new 54A District Court with Court Administration and Probation Services)
  • New Fire Station No. 9
  • New Fire Training Campus including Training Facility and Drill Tower and Associated Props
  • Joint Police / Fire Out-Building housing large equipment, reserve apparatus, and trailers, etc.”

Bean said current cost estimates for the are: Lansing Police Department $84,186,883; Lansing Fire Department $47,264,635 and the District Court at $43,099,415, which is about a  half-million dollars shy of what voters approved.

Those costs include updates to other fire stations.

Taking out SWOC will leave three city operations homeless: the city clerk elections office, the public media center and the office of 311, the city’s help call-in resource.

The demolition would also affect the United Way, which operates its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program there.

The media center is slated to move into the proposed performing arts center in downtown Lansing. The city is still raising funds for that project.

 “We are looking at alternative spaces for current city operations housed there,” Bean said.

City Clerk Chris Swope said he was informed of the potential elimination of the building. He said he and city officials were working on a plan to relocate the 15,000 square feet of space the office utilizes to store election equipment and conduct necessary tests and counts for elections.

While such a move will be difficult, Swope is not opposed.

“I mean, frankly, the building kinda sucks,” he said. He said the facility relies on window air conditioners and concrete walls that interfere with phone use.

Swope said that unofficially he has heard city officials are considering moving the election operations to the Capital Avenue parking ramp across from Lansing Community College. The area that Swope said was under consideration was the former Gibson’s Books and its attached cafe, Gibson’s Books and Beans. Both spaces are on the north side of the lower floor of the ramp.

“Those two parts together, I think, are less space than I need. So, we would have to figure out how exactly to make that operate,” Swope said.

The city's Economic Development and Planning Department operates in the southern section of the building.

Swope said he worries that the election division move may be complicated by regularly scheduled elections, including the August primary, the November general election and a February presidential primary. Local school districts may also call for an election in May.

“I don't think that meets the timeline for when they need to get this space moving,” Swope said.

Bean said the city is aware of the concerns. “We are looking at alternative spaces for current city operations housed there.”


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