The Lantern Building on Liberty Avenue downtown could soon become a new police substation.
Pittsburgh City Council is reviewing the legislation, which would authorize the city to enter into a five-year lease with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. The city would lease the building for $1 per year with an up-front security deposit of $5,000 plus an agreement that the city would cover utility expenses.
City officials have been in talks for months with groups representing downtown businesses, residents and cultural entities to open the substation.
"There are 115,000 people coming downtown every day, and there's long been the belief that police should have offices down here to make their services more efficient in the downtown area,” said Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.
The Downtown area has experienced instances of violence, often involving young people, in recent years. In July 2016, four people were shot and wounded near the Wood Street T station following Fourth of July festivities. In August 2016, police arrested more than half-a-dozen rowdy youths during the Three Rivers Regatta. And in September of that year, a 16-year-old boy was charged with shooting a 17-year-old boy, also near the Wood Street T station.
Since then, The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership has been working with the U.S. Attorney’s office in doing outreach with teens that come through downtown in the afternoons.
“We’ve been in partnership with three downtown high schools and law enforcement and community organizations to make sure these kids are talking to us about their experiences going through downtown, either commuting home from schools outside the city or going to school downtown, so that effort is ongoing,” Waldrup said.
Currently, officers who patrol downtown are assigned to a police station Uptown.
"Right now, if they need to do desk work or need to check in, they need to go up to the Hill District to Zone 2 headquarters and this will allow them to do much of that work here in a central location,” Waldrup said.
Additionally, 10 local businesses are contributing $50,000 toward the cost of any improvements that have to be made to the building. According to Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich, the building is in move-in condition but does require some additional security upgrades.
The substation will also be a place for community engagement.
“So, if Downtown residents or workers or business owners want to meet with police officers, they'll have a place to do that, that's comfortable and accessible," Waldrup said.
Pending approval by City Council, police hope to have the substation ready for Light Up Night on Friday, Nov. 18.