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Despite Protests, Aldermen Set To Weigh $85 Million Contract To Build Police, Fire Training Academy

The city's Budget Committee will consider a proposal to award AECOM the contract to build the facility Tuesday and the land-use approval for the project is set for a final City Council vote Wednesday.

A rendering shows what the 500,000-square-foot police and fire training facility in West Garfield Park will look like.
Chicago Infrastructure Trust
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CHICAGO — Aldermen will consider whether to award an $85 million contract to design and build a training facility for Chicago police and fire departments that has drawn fierce protests — and calls for delay from both mayoral candidates.

The project already has the endorsement of the City Council’s Committee on Zoning, and the land-use approval for the project is already set for a final vote by the City Council on Wednesday.

The City Council’s Budget Committee will consider a separate proposal to award AECOM the $85 million contract to build the facility (O2019-1154) at its meeting set for 10 a.m. Tuesday.

City officials plan to borrow $65 million to finance the construction of the facility, as part of plans approved by the City Council’s Finance Committee Monday.

In May 2018, the City Council earmarked $20 million from the sale of the city’s largest maintenance garage and yard along the North Branch of the Chicago River — now slated to be part of the Lincoln Yards development — for the construction of the training facility. The city bought the land for the training facility for $9.6 million.

Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) has resisted calls to delay construction of the 500,000-square-foot training facility in West Garfield Park, despite calls from Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot and the No Cop Academy coalition to delay. The coalition contends the money would be better spent on restoring cuts made to Chicago Public Schools’ budgets or reopening mental health clinics shuttered by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The new facility will breathe new life and bring “jobs, additional resources and hope” to West Garfield Park, Mitts said.

Construction of the facility on land that has been vacant for 30 years will create 300 construction jobs, and approximately 1,500 officers, firefighters and trainees who report to the facility daily will create an increased “public safety presence” in West Garfield Park, which is among the most violent areas of the city.

The training facility will include two buildings, including one for classrooms, labs, simulators, conference rooms, an auditorium and offices.

The other building is slated to include a shooting range and space for “active scenario training and a dive training pool” for teams to practice rescues from submerged vehicles in daylight or dark.

The campus will also include a driving course, skid pad and and a place for “hands-on practice in real-world situations.”

Plans call for the training facility to include a Culver’s and a Peach’s restaurant, as well as community rooms and computer labs open to members of the public.

Supporters said the training facility would have a catalytic effect on the West Side, and spur private development.

Emanuel has said a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility is needed to address serious concerns outlined by the U.S. Justice Department in its 2016 investigation of the Chicago Police Department that found officers graduate from the five-month academy were “unprepared to police lawfully and effectively.”

The facility would replace the police training academy at 1300 W. Jackson Blvd., built in 1976; the fire prevention training facility at 1010 S. Clinton St., built in 1950; and the Fire Academy South at 1338 S. Clinton St., built in 1965, officials said.