The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is asking legislators to approve the construction of a $15 million office building in Downtown Pensacola.
If approved, the 56,000 square foot Regional Operations Center would be built near the state’s existing Chappie James Building on West Government Street.
FDLE has operated since 1994 out of the historic P.K. Yonge School on North Palafox Street. Built in 1921, the building houses FDLE’s Investigations and Forensic Science (including the Regional Crime Laboratory), Criminal Justice Information Services, and Criminal Justice Professionalism units. FDLE officials say the 95-year-old building is in need of “serious, costly renovations, which the landlord has been unwilling to provide.”
According to the budget request, the 25-year lease includes an annual rent increase, which has resulted in a current lease cost of $33.33 per square foot — nearly double the state recommended rate of $17.18 and substantially higher than the current Escambia County average commercial rate of $22. Attempts to renegotiate the lease rate have been unsuccessful, the agency said.
The lease can only be terminated if state-owned space in Escambia County to accommodate the agency’s needs, but officials say that no such space exists. They’re asking legislators to sign off on an initial $3 million to engineer and design a new building. In its request to lawmakers, FDLE officials noted that sufficient space exists on the Chappie James parcel for another building, which would be within walking distance of state and federal courthouses.
A preliminary site plan, prepared for the agency in 2012, depicts a new three-story building facing West Intendencia Street.