The city’s new south-end police headquarters, in the works for more than a decade, is now under construction in Barrhaven near the Rideau River. And while the local councillor supports the project, he told Capital Current he’s braced for a public backlash over an escalating cost.

The Ottawa Police Service’s “South Facility” will be located at 3505 Prince of Wales Drive near the Rideau River, just south of the Carleton Lodge long-term care home. The building will take up eight acres of a 15-acre site purchased by the OPS to house its main station in the rapidly growing southern part of Ottawa.

As outlined in a report presented recently at a meeting of the Ottawa Police Services Board,  the project budget as of fall 2023 was nearly $180 million. That anticipated total has been increased to $193 million in the latest projection.

The construction site at 3505 Prince of Wales Drive, where the Ottawa Police South Facility is being built near the Rideau River in Barrhaven. The $193-million project is expected to be completed in 2026. [Photo © Robyn Best]

The new police outpost is described in the report as a “foundational project” in the force’s strategic plan for facilities and as “critical to support necessary and evolving operations of the OPS.”

Barrhaven East Coun. Wilson Lo said he is expecting a lot of backlash over the cost, but says the expense is worth it.

“I personally see it as justified just because of what’s going into this facility, what it’s replacing, and sort of how long it’s been needed,” he said.

Barrhaven East Coun. Wilson Lo says he believes the cost of the new police facility is worth the investment. [Photo © City of Ottawa]

Barrhaven was recently the site of one of the worst mass murders in Ottawa’s history, with six people recently arrived in Canada from Sri Lanka — including a mother, four children and an adult male friend of the family — all stabbed to death. A 19-year-old man from Sri Lanka who had been studying at Algonquin College faces six charges of first-degree murder.

While the building is called a police headquarters, Lo said it is more than just that. The facility will include a collision report centre, a call centre, and will also merge several older police stations into a unified service within the new site.

While south-end police services will be centralized in the new building, there will not be an increased police presence in the area, said Lo. But he added that it will give more of a perception of greater police presence, which could deter crime in the area.

The building is being constructed under a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED certification. This means there will be environmentally friendly features with the facility,  including electric vehicle charging in the parking lot.

[Infographic © Robyn Best]

This need for the project has been under discussion since the mid-2010s.

The population of Barrhaven was already fairly large when those conversations began, but the need for the facility has only grown with the increasing population of the area. A population estimate conducted by The City of Ottawa for 2023 noted that there are more than 100,000 residents in Barrhaven.

“The South Facility recognizes (the large Barrhaven population) and fulfills a promise to the residents of Barrhaven since the early-2010s for a local police station,” Lo stated when construction began in November.

Despite extensive talks, the project was shelved twice. In 2021, it was halted for multiple reasons including to allow for a reassessment after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the effects that supply-chain shortages were expected to have on cost.

In January 2023, the project was given the green light again. Lo said he isn’t ignoring the seriousness of the concerns raised over police funding, but brought up another serious event that highlighted failures in the system of law enforcement.

“We saw what a failure in policing and enforcement looks like in 2022 during the (Freedom) convoy (trucker occupation of Ottawa),” he said. 

Lo said understands why the public might be upset about the high cost of the new south-end police hub, but also expressed hope it can bring some trust back between the police and the communities they serve.

I personally see it as justified just because of what’s going into this facility, what it’s replacing, and sort of how long it’s been needed.

Barrhaven East Coun. Wilson Lo

He said that while a building cannot fix all the failures in the system, “the fact that we are investing in our police force and making sure that they have adequate facilities and equipment, and good command, as well, will ensure that they’re not just standing by when they’re needed.”

Chief Eric Stubbs echoed that sentiment.

“It will provide an inclusive, equitable, and safe space to serve all city residents and operations in the urban and rural areas of the city,” he said.

Construction began in November, and the project currently has an expected completion date of 2026. The OPS said it will update the police board quarterly, both on the progress of the building project and the budget.