The former Wells Fargo Plaza, a 27-story tower at Washington Street and First Avenue, is set to become the new headquarters for the Phoenix Police Department by 2025.
"It was time for an update," Mayor Kate Gallego said during the wall-breaking event. "Our existing police headquarters and 911 call center did not meet our standards, so today marks a very important step forward in delivering the type of building that our citizens need and our employees deserve."
Despite the relatively low cost of renovating the current police headquarters at 620 W. Washington St. — about $50 million — the city said that doing so would not be a long-term solution.
“With aging infrastructure and costly repairs needed on the building, it is not a viable long-term option. Even with those repairs, the building still would be less than half the size recommended in the 2019 Needs Assessment,” the city said in a press release.
The 2019 assessment found that the police department needed to double its space from its current location, which was opened in 1975 when the population of Phoenix was about half of what it is now.
At approximately 500,000 square feet, the new headquarters will expand the city government's footprint in downtown Phoenix, the press release said.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office operated on two floors of the building until 2010, but was booted by Wells Fargo after frequent protests of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s campaign to racially profile residents of the Valley.
Renovations will cost $180 millionThe city said moving police headquarters “is expected to save taxpayers more than $200 million.” That calculation is based on the alternative of constructing a new headquarters, which the city estimated would cost more than $420 million.
The city purchased the Wells Fargo Plaza building in 2021 for $46.5 million, and renovations are expected to cost $180 million, according to the city. That’s double the price the city said it was looking to pay in June 2022.
Still, police Chief Michael Sullivan sees the cost as worth it.
“We hope a new and modern facility will improve morale among those who work very challenging jobs for their city,” he said in a prepared statement.
The beginning of renovations on the new building comes as city officials await the end of a more than two-year investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into the alleged excessive use of force by Phoenix police.
Phoenix officers have fatally shot more people in 2023 than they did in all of 2022 — with almost two months left in the year.
Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell called the investigation a “cottage industry that is costing taxpayers millions and millions of dollars.” So far, the investigation has cost about $5 million.