A couple of new works of art are making appearances in Downtown Buffalo. The works go hand-in-hand with the opening of the new joint police and fire public safety headquarters, formerly the Michael J. Dillon U.S. Courthouse. Inside the lobby, Buffalo-based artist James Cooper III has painted a mural titled City and Service.
Another work, soon to come, is a sculpture that is being created by artist Jonathan Casey (Solid 716). The sculpture, titled Connectedness, plays off the new use of the building by paying tribute to the Police and Fire Departments. Casey says that 32 dyed concrete stars represent the 32 districts of Buffalo. The majority of the stars are sandstone in color, which aligns with the Art Moderne, sandstone exterior of the building. Five of the stars are dyed blue to represent the five police districts, and five of the stars are dyed red to represent the fire departments. The stars all have eight points, which is a tribute to the building’s design motifs – there are eight pointed stars throughout the building, inside and out, including the light fixtures and the floor mosaics. Once finished, the sculpture will stand around 12 feet tall, and will sit on a three foot tall trapezoid base. The piece should be in place in about a month’s time.
The new police and fire public safety headquarters building (82-year-old former courthouse) opened just last week.
“With the City of Buffalo Police & Fire Headquarters at the Michael J. Dillon U.S. Courthouse Building, my Administration has achieved the goal of bringing our police and fire department headquarters under one roof. The joint headquarters offers both Departments the technology and resources they to need meet our City’s increasing demand for critical public safety services,” Mayor Brown said. “This project also brings new life to this historic building, while making a substantial reinvestment in the heart of downtown Buffalo. I am grateful to our Department of Public Works for spearheading this important project.”
The former Buffalo Police Department headquarters building, located at 74 Franklin Street since 1937, was decommissioned in order to combine the two forces at Niagara Square.
The City of Buffalo acquired the former courthouse in November 2016 from the U.S. General Service Administration at a cost of $1, and has spent the past two years retrofitting the building for its new use.
“This move translates to a safer Buffalo, and will allow the delivery of services to be more efficient. The creation of a joint headquarters for our police and fire departments will reduce the maintenance and overhead costs, which at the end of the day will save the City of Buffalo money,” Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen said.
“By combining Police and Fire Headquarters under one roof, in a building that’s been retrofitted to meet our needs in the 21st Century, we can serve and protect our residents more efficiently and effectively. Today marks the start of a new era for our department,” Commissioner Lockwood said.
The building, which is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, was prominently featured in the film ‘Marshall’, about the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
“Having our command and administrative staff co-located with our counterparts from the Buffalo Police Department, greatly enhances our ability to plan, coordinate, and execute a multitude of complex interdepartmental initiatives, resulting in a more effective and efficient delivery of emergency services for our residents and visitors,” Commissioner Renaldo said.
Key changes to the 181,000-square-foot building include:
- Construction of high-tech evidence, property, camera and training rooms for the BPD
- Creation of a media briefing room
- Installation of technology and security measures throughout the structure, including swipe card-only access to over 120 doors, state-of-the-art camera systems, and fire suppression
Other construction elements include asbestos removal, electrical and data rewiring, and improvements to the HVAC system. The building retains the original courtrooms on the 6th floor – they are currently in the process of being restored to their original appearance. Another historic feather in the building’s cap is the ornate lobby which looks much the same as it once did when the building first opened.
The City is expected to sell the current police headquarters and Franklin and Church streets but will retain the fire headquarters property (built in 1931) behind City Hall (195 Court Street).