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

Lillian Lawson Staff reporter 

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 fivebuildings. Now, the department is centrally located in two adjacent buildings that allowUFPD officers to quickly access necessary resources, such as security footage and card-readeraccess points.

“The location makes us accessible,” UFPD Capt. Latrell Simmons said. “We’re hoping that aswe continue to highlight the resources that we offer here at the University of Florida PoliceDepartment, 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 EmergencyManagement , 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 uskeep 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 prayerfor those who will serve and work in the new facility located on the corner of Newell Driveand Museum Road.

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

Officials said electronic technology feeds from around campus are integrated into the facilityand 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 internalaffairs and business services, a command staff conference room, locker room, gymnasiumand interview and interrogation rooms. Special rooms with large windows and welcomingfurniture 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 representsUFPD’s commitment to transparency.

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

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

Tribute to history
The former wood-constructed safety building was designed by Florida architect RudolphWeaver and built in 1928. Its artistic and unique architectural style at the time, TudorRevival, 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 beenlisted in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places since 1989. The building also served asthe UFPD headquarters since 1957.

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

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

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

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

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