Meeting Tonight: Proposed New Police Station and Parking Garage

Citizens are encouraged to attend tonight’s meeting of the Central Business Architecture Committee. A major new building for downtown Northampton, the police station, will be discussed. Here is the meeting notice:


Revised Meeting Notice
(Item added)

DATE:     July 30, 2008
TIME:     6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
PLACE:    City Council Chambers, 212 Main Street, Northampton


1.)  Public Hearing:
             6:00 p.m.  Application of Thornes Marketplace, L.L.C. for alterations to upper
                               story windows located at 150 Main Street. Map 32C and Parcel 001.

2.) *Informal Session:
             6:30 p.m.     Proposed Police Station and Parking Garage, Center and Gothic Streets

3.)  Other Business

4.)  Adjourn

Peg Keller
Office of Planning and Development

We are reproducing the following comments from the Northampton Design Forum with permission:

At 6:30 p.m. tonight, July 30th in the City Council Chambers, the Central Business Architecture Committee will be holding an informal review session on the proposed new Police Station at the existing Center Street site. The current building is slated for demolition; the new building will be constructed where the current parking lot is on Center Street. Also planned is a 2 story parking structure that will sit behind the building and directly abut Gothic Street.
This is one of the most important planning decisions of the decade for downtown Northampton, as it will be a major civic building that will shape two of our most important street spaces, Center Street and Gothic Street. It is important that everyone concerned about the future of downtown and related design issues become informed and attend this meeting if possible. If the new building can enhance these streets, the demolition of the existing police station will present a unique opportunity to improve our downtown.

See also:

Police Station Building Committee

Northampton Police Department, Massachusetts: Needs Assessment & Facility Master Plan (PDF, 2005)
The Northampton Police Department has outgrown its current facilities on Center Street [12,000 square feet]. The forty-year-old
building no longer meets the space, operational or security needs of the Department. The time has come to
do something about this.

The building no longer provides sufficient space for efficient operations. Policing operations are hampered
by lack of space and outdated interior planning. Functions that should work closely together are separated
(the Community Services Bureau works out of the James House on Gothic Street due to lack of space at the
central station). There is insufficient parking to accommodate department and staff vehicles. [The current lot is around 25,500 square feet (0.58 acres), and accommodates the building footprint (6,000 sq.ft) and approximately 30 spaces.] The situation is
becoming more serious and intolerable year by year…

Northampton covers almost 36 square miles and has a current population of around 29,000. The population
has remained stable since the 1960s and is not anticipated to grow significantly over the next 25 years. The
need for police service has increased steadily and is expected to continue to do so. There are a number of
factors that make Northampton a unique place, and place unique demands on its police service. The city is
home to a number of colleges, and attracts a large number of visitors to its restaurants, bars and many

These factors, combined with a large number of social services facilities, make Northampton’s police service
needs unique. The department has contributed, supported and protected a unique quality of life in the city,
but is becoming increasingly hampered by the lack of resources and suitable facilities.

The police department currently comprises 64 members (April 2004) of which 59 are sworn officers. Under
the Chief of Police the department is organized into Administration and Operations divisions, each headed
by a captain.

  • Operations – Patrol, Investigations
  • Administration – Records, Community Services, Technical Services

Communications and 911 emergency dispatch functions are currently housed on the upper floor of the
central fire station on King Street.

The need for police service in Northampton is growing. The Northampton Police Department deals with
approximately 33,000 to 34,000 calls per year. The numbers of calls for service and the time spent on each
call has gone up, and crime rates are rising. Crime rates were up 43 percent in 2003, much higher than
anticipated. In the ‘top 8’ crime categories crimes increased from 1,367 in 2002 to 1,958 in 2003, an
increase of 43 percent. This trend has been obvious for several years and the department’s success in
solving crimes and laying charges comes at the cost of increased overtime and court appearances.

As of April 2004 police staffing was at the same level as in 1990. Staff number peaked at 68 from 1996 to
2000, but a loss of 5 officers since then has not yet been replaced. The current shortage of staff resources
is making it more difficult for the department to maintain a pro-active approach to crime reduction and
enforcement in recent years.

To meet the increasing needs of the city we have estimated that total police staffing (not including
dispatchers) could reach or exceed 80 by 2030 (an increase of 25 to 28 percent, or about 1 percent per

To meet 25-year accommodation needs for a department of up to 80 members (up from 62 currently) a
facility of around 31,500 square feet is required, including an indoor firing range and small police garage…

To accommodate a new building and on-grade parking for 75 to 80 vehicles a site of 1.8 acres or more
would ideally be required. Smaller sites could be used by stacking functions (to reduce the building
footprint) or by providing alternate parking arrangements (e.g. deck or basement)…

To support future policing operations in Northampton we recommend appropriate facilities be designed and
built as soon as possible. We also believe that it would be more cost-effective in the long term to construct
a facility that meets 25-year program needs, rather than rely on disruptive and expensive alterations or
expansion later.

The new facility should be designed to be cost effective to maintain, and be durable enough to stand up to
hard 24-hour use. This need for high-quality components, and the need to design a facility that will reflect
an appropriate architectural character for the city, will form a significant financial investment for the city —
however the payback in increased police efficiency, staff morale will be obvious. Something must be done
sooner or later, and the least expensive approach would (in our opinion) be to take advantage of current
low interest rates and initiate this project as soon as possible…