New UF Public Safety Complex Will Honor Historic Building Legacy 

The historic and original WRUF Radio Station will be demolished and repurposed by the University of Florida. After a ninety-three-year history at the university, the building is no longer functional as the UF Police Department’s headquarters. However, this does not mean UF will forget the building and its legacy.

WUFT in 1940s

WUFT in the 1940s. Image provided by: University Archives Photograph Collection, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

The wood-constructed building was built in 1928. Renowned Florida architect Rudolph Weaver designed the building in the Tudor Revival architectural style instead of the popular Collegiate Gothic. This artistic choice sets the station apart from other buildings on campus. The building has been listed in the US National Register of Historic Places since 1989, and its rich history has long been a part of UF.

The building has been utilized as the headquarters for the University of Florida Police Department (UFPD) since 1957. The school has grown exponentially since then. More students mean UFPD has a larger role, and the current building cannot support that demand. Carlos Dougnac, Assistant Vice President for Planning Design and Construction at UF, states, “It is a relatively small building that is not easily repurposed to any programmatic need of the university and is in a location where the new public safety building is desired.”

Restoration and repurposing the historic building would be expensive and still not satisfy the space needs of the University. The demolition process has begun as of March 10th, 2021. Starting from scratch and constructing an up-to-date, environmentally sustainable, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant facility is the goal. Building a new Public Safety Complex would meet the department’s needs, and students would be able to have access to a safe and updated building.

The physical security of students will also improve. Officers will be able to readily react to blue light phone calls, access camera footage on card reader access points, and assist with all 911 calls by providing video footage if cameras are in proximity of pursuit. None of these resources were previously available in the old facility. UFPD was housed across five buildings on campus due to a lack of central space. With a new beacon for UFPD to call home, for the first time since 1957, they will be in two adjacent buildings.

UFPD Station in 1962. Photo provided by: University Archives Photograph Collection, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

The University has received permission to take down the building from the Florida Division of Historical Resources and the UF Preservation of Historical Buildings and Sites Committee. The State’s mitigation requirements have also been met. A new building has been designed by Schenkel and Schulz architects and will be constructed by Ajax Building Company.

Dustin Stephany, the sustainable building coordinator at UF, says that the new building will have multiple sustainable advantages. The project is expected to divert at least 75% of construction and demolition waste. Prior to demolition, various building components were salvaged by Facilities Services and a local non-profit company, Repurpose Project, in effort to help benefit both the University and community, through material reuse. The building is inspired by Florida’s first K-12 Net Zero Energy (NZE) school, NeoCity and contains design details that will make the building more airtight, significantly improving the energy-efficiency and indoor air quality.  These improvements will not only help the environment but improve staff health and productivity as well.

Image taken February 2021 by Rebecca DeCesare.

A lot of material from the original historic structure will be repurposed in the updated facility, honoring history in a sustainable fashion. Builders will turn bricks into low-seat walls around the building and within the interior. The trees that cannot be relocated will be turned into a high-quality conference room table, while new replacement trees will be planted on-site and elsewhere on campus. These pieces of history will find a new home in the new and improved Public Safety Complex where UFPD, UFDEM, including the University’s Emergency Operations Center and UF Physical Security’s Global Security Operations Center will call home.

The original WRUF Radio Station of 1928 had been well-used and beloved by the greater Gator community, but the time has come to address students and staff safety at UF as a top priority. This new building will honor the legacy of the historic building while progressing into a new age of modern sustainability and safety.

Published: March 11th, 2021

Category: News