After approval by the Buffalo Common Council Tuesday authorizing Mayor Byron Brown and the City of Buffalo to acquire the vacant Michael J. Dillon Federal Courthouse from the U. S. General Services Administration (GSA), Mayor Brown was pleased to announce that the City is expected to take ownership of the historic Court Street landmark on Wednesday, November 16, 2016 when it closes on the purchase of the building, at a cost of $1.
A special deed-signing ceremony between Mayor Brown and representatives of GSA will take place on a date to be announced, marking the official transfer of the building from the federal government to the City of Buffalo.
After the purchase is completed, the city plans to turn the historic structure into a combined police and fire headquarters that also will house some of the city’s data operations.
This action is part of GSA’s ongoing efforts to make more efficient use of federal real estate assets while saving taxpayer dollars and serving as an economic catalyst in communities throughout the country.
“This is the right location to house both Buffalo Police and Buffalo Fire headquarters,” said Mayor Brown.
“With both the police and fire departments working out of older buildings and at full capacity, Buffalo has been considering a new public safety campus for the past year and with this transfer we increase efficiency and improve safety citywide, restore vitality to this downtown corridor which was impacted by the 4 year closure, and continue my goal of reducing the footprint of city-owned buildings, making some available for private development.”
A new public safety campus is one of Mayor Brown’s top priorities and today’s announcement is another reflection of his continued commitment to preserve and re-purpose historic buildings, while stimulating additional development.
The Dillon courthouse, a nine-story structure constructed in 1936, has been vacant since the Robert H. Jackson Courthouse opened at Niagara Square in November 2011.
Under Mayor Brown’s direction, the City submitted an application to the Department of Justice in April 2016 seeking to gain control of the courthouse for a “Law Enforcement Public Benefit Conveyance.” The Department of Justice reviewed the application and ruled in favor of the request.
“This is an example of GSA strategically using a resource that is no longer mission critical to the agency to serve as a catalyst of economic development for the City of Buffalo,” said Denise Pease, Regional Administrator for the Northeast and Caribbean Region.
“Federal government real estate practices like disposal have helped reduce our federal footprint, create valuable savings for the government and taxpayers, and serve communities like the City of Buffalo in a positive way. We are pleased the Dillon Courthouse will be used as the city’s public safety campus for generations to come. ”
Last year, the Brown administration hired a consultant to help develop a plan for the new public safety complex and the former courthouse quickly emerged as the preferred location.
Overall, the building is in good shape, requires little construction, is centrally located in downtown Buffalo near a city-owned parking lot as well as a parking ramp, and with easy accessibility to neighboring courthouses for officers to conduct administrative and court-related duties.
Shifting police and fire administrative offices, as well as arson investigation, to the former courthouse is aimed at making both operations more efficient.
Buffalo Police headquarters is currently located at 74 Franklin St., at the corner of Franklin and Church streets, and Buffalo Fire headquarters is located at 195 Court St. The two headquarters have been at their current locations since the 1930s.
As part of the next step in the process, The City of Buffalo Department of Public Works will issue a Request for Proposals for renovations and upgrades to the courthouse to accommodate both police and fire.
Mayor Brown included $1.9 million in his 2017 capital budget that is earmarked for the first-phase of the Dillon courthouse upgrades. Those improvements will include creating property evidence and DNA storage as well as updating data, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems in the building.
Construction is expected to begin in spring 2017, with a tentative completion date of September 1, 2017.