SHREVEPORT, La -- Keep the closed sign up at the old Sears. That's the message from the Shreveport Police Officers Association on the idea of repurposing the massive vacancy at Mall St. Vincent as a new SPD headquarters.
The head of the union says he's also been hearing lots of opposition from his members. So Michael Carter put out a statement against the move. He says it makes no sense to put $30 million into remodeling a 60-year-old building.
Carter says the SPD needs state of the art facility ready for new technology.
"Let's put shovels in the dirt and let's build a new building," Carter told KTBS 3 News. "Certainly, if you're going to go to the taxpayers, and ask them for tens of millions of dollars, build something worth having. Don't just throw lipstick on an old building, and say hey look, you've got a new building."
City Councilman Grayson Boucher, who initiated the Sears proposal, says the former retail anchor can be transformed into something state of the art.
"This isn't like we're going to go and slap a little paint here, put a little new carpet in, and here you go. This is a $30 million dollar project. That's pretty state of the art in my mind," Boucher said.
Meantime, Councilwoman LeVette Fuller, whose district includes the mall, says she's getting mixed reaction from constituents.
"There are some people that think that having the police adjacent to the retail space makes it safer. There are other people that think that it may devalue the surrounding area," Fuller said.
"And when you look at the current location for the police department, you can't say that it's necessarily devaluing the area. But it's not exactly bringing it up," Fuller added.
Fuller says she's not sure yet whether she'd vote to support moving the SPD to the former Sears. Boucher wants to have more discussion at another public safety committee meeting next week .
"Is it going to work out? I really don't think so. I think the cost is too much. But is it something we can look into? Absolutely," Boucher says, adding that the union opposition also hurts the possibility.
But he says new construction of a building the size of the former Sears would cost twice as much as the remodel. It could house additional operations, including the fire department's bomb squad and arson investigations unit, and the city's property standards enforcement.
The proposed bond election calls for spending $27.5 million on a new SPD headquarters, and $4.5 million on substations.
Carter says that's not enough for his union to give its endorsement of Proposition 1.
"We want to see something real. We want to see models. We want to see intent. We want to see what they're actually going to do. But it needs to be new. It needs to serve the needs of this department for the next 40 to 50 years," Carter said.
Boucher agrees that voters need to see a plan. That's why he asked architects to volunteer their time to give the public safety committee an evaluation, complete with artist renderings of what the SPD would look like at the former Sears.
"Whether it be a new building or an old building, or remodeling a building, tearing down part of the existing police station and building another one, I want a plan where I can got to the taxpayers and say look this is what you're going to be getting for the bond," Boucher said.
Fuller says right now she's not sure if she'd vote to move he SPD to the former Sears. But she applauds Boucher's idea to to repurpose it.
And she says, given the struggle of brick and mortar retail, there also needs to be an examination on the future of the entire mall.