The former downtown Waco Police Department building got “a new lease on life” Tuesday with a ceremonial opening of the Waco-McLennan County Office of Emergency Management and City of Waco Information Technology Department offices.
City and county officials gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil the newly renovated former police building at 721 N. Fourth St. The renovation cost came in at about $2.2 million, and the county had initially agreed to pay in $400,000 for the city-led project.
The building had been empty since the police department moved in 2013 to the former Hillcrest Medical Tower at 3115 Pine Ave., said Frank Patterson, Waco-McLennan County emergency management coordinator.
“For 18 years, we were in the basement of city hall, and IT services were in the basement of the (Waco) Convention Center. And discussions started right when police moved out,” Patterson said. “The city and county keep growing, and when I started, I was a one-man department. But now everything keeps growing, so we had literally outgrown our offices.”
Both IT and emergency management moved into the new offices when renovations wrapped up late last month. Waco Police Chief Ryan Holt was one of several law enforcement officials who attended the unveiling with county commissioners and city officials.
“I worked in this building for 20 years, so there are definitely still memories here. But it’s great that it has a new lease on life,” Holt said. “They completely renovated the entire building, so it’s a nice repurposing of the facility for two very important functions for the city and for the county.”
The renovations will provide additional space for personnel, furnishings, storage and updated equipment for emergency management officials. Patterson said it will also allow opportunities to host training sessions, courses and other meetings as needed.
“From the first responder perspective and in our training is where the public is going to notice our improvements,” Patterson said. “Before, we couldn’t hold any meetings or host any trainings without renting other facilities. Now, we are back to where we can use our main facility, and this was a long time coming.”
Information Technology Director James Brown said the renovated facility allows employees to have more room for storage and staff monitoring technological changes or events for the city. He and Patterson led guests at the ribbon cutting around the building, highlighting the new office spaces and their new capabilities.
“We are so excited to be here, and it couldn’t have come at a better time,” Brown said during the tour. “We are very pleased to be here.”