A police community assistance center is in the works for the former Beverage Shop building on East Cherry Street. The city purchased the property from the Rahway Center Partnership (RCP) this past spring.
“This project is absolutely about involving the community in helping us take what is currently an underutilized and neglected structure and restoring life back into it,” said Police Chief John Rodger, for however long the building is available to use, whether a year or five years.
He hopes to have the exterior “looking like something” by November with the building functional after the new year. The plan for the nearly 2,000-square-foot interior includes a reception area, work area, large conference room or classrooms where programs could be run and a few smaller conference rooms for meetings and counseling needs. “The floor plan is evolving and we will know better as the cleanup continues,” Rodger said.
Routine patrols will be able to complete many aspects of police reporting that currently occurs at police headquarters and non-patrol staff will be assigned to do a portion of their work week there. The center is intended to be a place for “positive police activities,” said Rodger, though he declined to call it a substation. He expects the Juvenile Bureau will be there often as “it’s the perfect place for meeting with parents and children away from the traditional police environment.”
Other uses might include neighborhood watch and business watch groups, child seat inspections and installations, community relations functions, bicycle registration and youth academy, among others. The chief anticipates staffing the location from about 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. while patrol staff will be able to — and encouraged — to use the facility around the clock.
Ideally, Rodger would like to replace the facade with something more modern, similar to Park Square or Dornoch’s renovations on a Main Street property. It all depends on cost, according to Rodger, since the project must be done as economically as possible though it’s still unclear at this point how much it might cost. The department has applied to use some forfeiture funds, which can be used under specific rules, and Rodger said some local businesses already have pledged support, including RSI Bank. “We will be looking toward other business leaders to donate or provide in-kind services to complete this project,” he said.