Cops Lease Space; New HQ on Hold
In a decision that could draw to a close the multiyear search for a new headquarters, the Capitol Police Department will lease several floors of a private office building near the south end of the Capitol campus.
The law-enforcement agency will continue to occupy its current headquarters on D Street Northeast while it takes over a significant portion of the Fairchild Building, a private facility on South Capitol Street near the Rayburn House Office Building.
“We have reached an agreement,” said Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Trent Lott (R-Miss.), whose committee has oversight of the police department.
Capitol Police officials have sought a new headquarters for several years, asserting that the agency, with more than 1,500 officers, has outgrown its current facility.
The Mississippi Senator said the decision to make use of existing facilities, rather than purchasing a new structure or constructing a building from the ground up, stemmed in part from financial concerns.
“Let’s see if we can do this without a big multimillion-dollar spending trip,” Lott said.
Cost arose as a major issue when House and Senate lawmakers considered two earlier proposals put forth by the Capitol Police Board, both for potential sites in the city’s Southeast quadrant.
Estimates to purchase and renovate the former Washington Star building at 225 Virginia Ave. SE reached more than $130 million. No estimates were available for the second site, a privately owned lot at I Street and New Jersey Avenue Southeast.
A spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol, which manages the department’s buildings and grounds, was not available for comment Friday. The police did not have figures available on the leasing arrangement.
Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer acknowledged in late 2003 that the department would examine a variety of short-term options — including leasing space in the Fairchild Building — to provide additional work space for its officers.
Officer Michael Lauer, a Capitol Police spokesman, said the department will move many of the operations now housed in the Ford House Office Building to the South Capitol Street facility.
“Our primary function is to relocate most of our administrative functions out of the Congressional space,” Lauer said.
In a December memo, Gainer said the leased office space would become home to the department’s administrative offices and its Patrol and Mobile Response Division, as well as host “support space” for its House and Capitol divisions. Additionally, the memo noted that locker-room and fitness facilities would be housed in the Fairchild Building.
“We’re not looking to occupy any more Congressional office space than we already do,” Lauer noted. “We’re looking to get out of the space and to free up more office space for Congressional staff.”
“We want to condense everything into one building if the space planning allows it,” he later added.
There are no plans at present for the department to purchase the building, Lauer confirmed, and it remains unclear whether the arrangement will mark the end of the law-enforcement agency’s search for a new facility.
A spokesman for House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio), whose panel also oversees the police department, could not say whether the search would continue, but suggested leasing space is not “a permanent solution.”
“This additional space alleviates part of the current problem for the Capitol Police but the chairman does not necessarily believe that this should be seen as a permanent solution to an issue that is more than likely to come up again in the future,” said spokesman Brian Walsh. “While he is certainly pleased that this additional space could be made available to the Capitol Police, he remains committed to working with them, with the leadership and with the other oversight committees on ways to improve and strengthen the Capitol Police and their facilities.”