Big Moves Ahead for Memphis Police Department Facilities 

Memphis Police May Move Into Donnelly J. Hill State Office Building.

Some big moves are planned for the Memphis Police Department (MPD) headquarters at 201 Poplar and for the department's South Main precinct.

The MPD wants to move its headquarters from the Shelby County Criminal Justice Complex to the former Donnelly J. Hill State Office Building on Civic Center Plaza. The state vacated the building last year, and its offices are now housed down Main Street at One Commerce Square.

click to enlarge Donnelly J. Hill State Office Building - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • Donnelly J. Hill State Office Building

Robert Lipscomb, the city's director of Housing and Community Development (HCD), wants the city to buy the building from the state for $1.5 million. The goal is to relocate MPD headquarters and a few other city offices from spaces leased around the city into the 12-story office building.

"If we're going to fight crime, we need to show the public that we're serious about fighting crime," Lipscomb said. "We want to give the police department a visible presence, and I think this building does that."

The MPD's rent at 201 Poplar is $85,000 per month, according to MPD Director Toney Armstrong. All told, rent and other expenses there cost the city about $1.4 million per year. Vacating 201 Poplar would save the MPD about 75 percent of that rent cost.

Some city council members were skeptical of the deal and not in favor of raising the city's debt in the current budget year.

Lipscomb said HCD would also move into the former state office building as well as the Memphis Housing Authority, human resources, legal, and a few other departments. Lipscomb discussed his plans with the Memphis City Council last week, but the project is not yet ready for a formal council vote, he said.

But Lipscomb said a more pressing matter was the move of the MPD's South Main precinct from Central Station to the Memphis Area Transit Authority's North End Terminal at 444 North Main.

The move was precipitated by the planned, $55 million redevelopment of Central Station into a hotel, restaurant, and apartments. The council approved the $1.3 million reallocation of funds in this year's budget to begin the planning and design phase, which is expected to be completed by September.

The price tag drew fire from councilmember Berlin Boyd. After being told that the move was necessary, Boyd chided administration officials for asking for the emergency funds.

"No offense, but with everything [from the administration], there's a sense of urgency," Boyd said. "We can find money to do certain things, but when it comes to helping people, we can't do that."

Armstrong explained that the move would allow him to have the entirety of his downtown precinct "under one roof" and that the department didn't ask to move.

"One of the things we have to understand here is we've been asked to relocate; we've been asked to vacate the premises," Armstrong said. "So, it's more than necessary that we move."

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