UF opens new $26M public safety facility to serve as community hub

Lillian Lawson Staff reporter. Gainesville Sun

It has taken nearly a century but the University of Florida finally has itself a sparkling new,state-of-the-art public safety facility for the campus’ first responders.

UF officials held the grand opening for the $26.8-million, three-story building Wednesday, replacing a crumbling 93-year-old facility that some referred to as a “gingerbread house “where people have fallen through the wooden floor.

Prior to its construction, the UF Police Department staff were spread throughout five buildings. Now, the department is centrally located in two adjacent buildings that allow UFPD officers to quickly access necessary resources, such as security footage and card-reader access points.

“The location makes us accessible,” UFPD Capt. Latrell Simmons said. “We’re hoping that as we continue to highlight the resources that we offer here at the University of Florida Police Department, that everyone will come in and engage with us.”

But it’s not just UFPD that will enjoy the new digs. The 51,000-square-foot facility is large enough to also house the Department of Emergency Management, including the Emergency Operations Center and UF Physical Security’s GlobalSecurity Operations Center.

“It’s not only a police department, but it’s named the Public Safety Building for a reason, “said Linda Stump-Kurnick, UF’s assistant vice president of public and environmental safety.“It’s a safe environment for those people who work at the university to come and help us keep the business of the university going.”

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About the new building
Wednesday’s event began with a flag-raising ceremony, followed by a dedication and prayer for those who will serve and work in the new facility located on the corner of Newell Drive and Museum Road.

Alumni, former and current UFPD employees and other guests took a public tour shortly after.
They saw the new communications center and large meeting space, which student organizations can also use and have safety training sessions.

Officials said electronic technology feeds from around campus are integrated into the facility and allow for enhanced, real-time monitoring for campus safety.

The first floor is the Community Services Division and consists of a large lobby area, community room, roll call room, an area for gear, such as body cameras and multiple offices. The sally port, which holds UFPD’s rescue vehicle named “R-1” is also on the bottom floor.

The second floor features the Criminal Investigation Division, which has offices for internal affairs and business services, a command staff conference room, locker room, gymnasium and interview and interrogation rooms. Special rooms with large windows and welcoming furniture are set up for interviewing victims, with a goal to make them more comfortable.

Mental health professionals are also on-site to assist when needed.
Glass panels can be seen throughout the building, which Stump-Kurnick said represents UFPD’s commitment to transparency.

The Department of Emergency Management is housed on the third floor, which is also where dispatch and the Emergency Operations Center are located. A large video wall made up of multiple screens shows much of campus in real time.

An emergency operations center, emergency management conference room and both internship and decompression spaces are all on this floor. There are also showers for any personnel who may stay overnight during emergencies.

Tribute to history
The former wood-constructed safety building was designed by Florida architect Rudolph Weaver and built in 1928. Its artistic and unique architectural style at the time, Tudor Revival, set the building apart from others at UF built in the popular collegiate gothic style.

It housed the original WRUF Radio Station and, according to a UF news release, had been listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places since 1989. The building also served as the UFPD headquarters since 1957.

“It is a relatively small building that is not easily repurposed to any programmatic need of the university and is in a location where the new public safety building is desired,” said Carlos Dougnac, UF’s assistant vice president for planning design and construction.

UF received permission to demolish the building from the Florida Division of Historical Resources and the UF Preservation of Historical Buildings and Sites Committee. Restoration and repurposing of the original building wouldn’t have met the university’s need for additional space.

Despite the old building’s demolition in March 2021, plans were put in place to repurpose materials from the original structure to honor its history.

Bricks from the prior structure were turned into low-seat walls within and around the building, and a local tree was used to create a conference room table for the new facility.

The facility was designed by Schenkel Shultz Architecture and constructed by Ajax Building Company.

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