Peering into interview rooms and offices, the public got its first glimpse of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s new Steele Creek Division headquarters Wednesday.
The 12,500-square-foot building, which faces the intersection of Westinghouse Boulevard and South Tryon Street in southwest Charlotte, is part of the department’s effort to increase its visibility across the county, police said.
Each of CMPD’s 13 divisions has an office in the area it covers. But some are tucked in industrial parks and warehouse spaces.
Police Chief Rodney Monroe said police should be visible, not hidden. He noted the importance of simply being able to drive by a police station to see the presence of officers in the community.
“This is something for all of us. It’s not just for the police department,” Monroe told the crowd gathered for the grand opening of the Steele Creek headquarters Wednesday.
Steele Creek is the third CMPD division, following the Metro and Providence divisions, to open a free-standing office building.
City officials said the Eastway Division will be the next to receive a new headquarters. The project has been funded, but crews have not yet broken ground.
Six other new headquarters – for the South, Westover, Hickory Grove, University and Independence divisions, as well as one in the SouthPark area – have been proposed but not funded.
The Steele Creek Division covers about 60 square miles in the southwest area of the county, bordering part of Lake Wylie.
The division’s commander, Capt. Allan Rutledge, said police and city officials settled on the location because it has high visibility and traffic. It’s also centralized in the division, promoting accessibility to residents and allowing officers to get where they need to be quickly.
The division’s former office, located by the Charlotte Police and Fire Training Academy on Shopton Road, will be used as office space.
A sweet welcome
The new facility has been in use for about a month, but the grand opening was delayed because of the Democratic National Convention.
Based on the number of cookies and cakes dropped off at the office recently, residents have noticed the move, Rutledge said.
“I think folks are putting on a few pounds,” he said.
On Wednesday, residents, police and city officials toured the new Steele Creek headquarters.
Walking into Rutledge’s new office, Monroe jokingly told him, “Your office is bigger than mine!”
The facility, which will house about 100 officers and police staff, is equipped with conference rooms, locker rooms, offices, interview rooms and a fitness room with weights and a treadmill. There’s also a 1,000-square-foot garage to store equipment such as bicycles and all-terrain vehicles.
Symbolism out front
At the front of the building is an aluminum sculpture titled “Canopy” by artist and University of North Carolina at Greensboro art professor Billy Lee. The sculpture, courtesy of the Arts & Science Council and the Public Art Commission, depicts a tree, “one of the oldest symbols suggesting stability, shelter and protection, which is appropriate for a police station,” Lee wrote.
The entire project cost $7 million, with $4.1 million in construction costs, officials said.
“I’ve never been inside a police station, thank goodness,” said Carolyn Tatanish, who lives about three miles away from the new office. She said she’s glad to see that the new headquarters will increase police visibility and allow officers to get to various areas of the division faster.
Charlotte City Council member LaWana Mayfield called the headquarters a “welcome addition” to the community that will help deter crime.
Charles Hodges, a developer of the nearby Ayrsley community, said the new police station will likely spark development in the Steele Creek area.
“The economic benefit of this is tremendous,” he said.
Cooke: 704-358-5067 Twitter: @MeghanACooke