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City Commissioner Jack Porter hosts town hall discussing fate of old TPD HQ

Posted at 9:39 PM, Dec 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-16 21:39:24-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Tallahassee City Commissioner Seat 1 Jacqueline "Jack" Porter hosted a town hall via Zoom on Thursday night to discuss the future of the outgoing Tallahassee Police Department headquarters.

The police department has been headquartered on 7th Avenue since 1972 and the decades-old building presents maintenance challenges and isn't large enough to support the growing department.

TPD will be moving their headquarters to a new location where the old Northwood Centre mall used to be, with demolition currently underway. The demolition is planned to be done by February 2022.

The Zoom meeting had roughly 50 people in it during its peak and averaged about 40 people as the time progressed. Commissioner Porter began the meeting by talking about the history of the building, as well as some information about the space the old headquarters contains.

According to Porter, the building was originally built as Sealy Elementary in 1928 before being converted into the TPD headquarters in 1972. It was last renovated in 2002, Porter said, and the total footprint of the complex is 9.41 acres with the building itself housing about 160,000 square feet of space.

Due to its large amount of space available as part of the complex, Porter said it was exciting how large the area is, so they can be more creative with what to do next with it.

"There is a lot that can be done on that site, whether it's a public-private partnership or something that is totally public. I don't know if we need a park per se next to Lake Ella, but maybe something with some more recreational opportunities. There is a lot of room to work with."

After the historical background portion of the town hall, participants were split up into small groups where they were asked to discuss what they thought the future of the old TPD headquarters should look like and then report back to the larger group with answers.

Across multiple groups, here is some of what people had to say:

  • Renovate the headquarters into a contemporary art museum.
  • Tear it down to allow more green space on the south side of the Lake Ella Park area.
  • Renovate it into a facility geared towards veterans, the homeless, public workers and families.
  • Turn the headquarters into a non-profit hub or a community services hub.
  • Tear it down and build a 100-foot climbing wall with a station to rent out roller skates, bikes and scooters for use around the park.

Town hall attendee Terrance Barber said that he supported the idea of the old headquarters becoming a performing arts center.

"What we need more in this community more than ever is activities," Barber said. "I think performing arts is something that this community lacks."

Porter added that she thinks the new TPD headquarters will be complete about two years down the road after the demolition is done. The ideas given at Thursday night's meeting were all about public input, something Commissioner Porter said she wants more of going forward.

"I cannot tell you how excited I am to be having these kinds of conversations," Porter told the town hall meeting. "We need to be doing more of this, there's a better way to get community input and I'm really excited for what we can accomplish having this conversation this early on."

The city commissioner said that this would probably be the last Zoom town hall of 2021 unless something comes up, but that they will pick back up in January 2022.

To watch the full town hall, click here.