Mesa is looking to build a new police substation across from Fiesta Mall to replace a bunkerlike facility that’s been bursting at the seams for years.
The likely new home for police is an empty strip mall at the northwest corner of Southern Avenue and Longmore. The city would level the old stores and construct a facility that would be accessible to the public and provide a high-profile boost to the aging Fiesta District.
The city will share plans with the public at a Saturday meeting, but already one of Mesa’s elected leaders is challenging the location as too costly.
Councilman Alex Finter said the strip mall will cost the city $925,000 an acre. In a letter to City Manager Chris Brady on Monday, Finter said it “is difficult to comprehend” buying a deteriorating strip mall in a crashing commercial real-estate market.
Finter wants to consider other sites and wait until the city selects a new police chief. Finter said the new leader could reverse the policy of former Chief George Gascón, whose decentralization efforts shifted more personnel to places like the already cramped Dobson substation. Until the new chief is in place, Finter wrote, it’s difficult to know what kind of facility should be built.
Finter wants to consider placing the substation at Powell Junior High School, which could have a decreased student body as the Mesa Unified School District considers alternate uses for the site.
But Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh said the site cost is based upon a fair appraisal and that it’s within the $15 million to $17 million budget that voters approved in a bond election.
The Southern Avenue site meets every criteria the city established, said Kavanaugh, whose district includes the Fiesta Mall area. The proposed substation site is a central location in the Dobson police district, it’s on a major street, has access to two roads and his highly visible.
Plus, it would bring new life to an area saturated with struggling shopping centers.
“Taking this site out of the inventory for commercial real estate will not hurt the market in any way and will in fact help the market in the Fiesta District by reducing the market of nonperforming and underperforming retail,” Kavanaugh said.
The Powell site doesn’t have enough space, he said.
The substation could open in about 2 1/2 years, Brady said. It would replace a building at 2505 S. Dobson Road, which doesn’t have a front door and is not designed to have the public visit the police who work inside.
The Dobson facility would serve a city function, but nothing has been specifically identified for the building.
The new facility would have a front desk open 24 hours a day and a community room.
“We’re trying to make this a little more community oriented,” Brady said.
The city will share plans for the substation at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in Fiesta Mall. The location is Suite 1212, which is on the lower level by the stairs of the Macy’s wing.