EAST VILLAGE — Officers from the Wood Street Station on Wednesday will report to a new $21 million facility 3.3 miles south of their old to join the Near West District, a merger of two districts.
Commander Melissa Staples, a 22-year-department veteran, will lead the Near West District at 1412 S. Blue Island Ave., on the border of Little Italy and Pilsen neighborhoods.
The venture consolidates the 12th and 13th Districts and represents the city's largest police district, spanning eight communities and employing over 500 officers, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at an unveiling of the environmentally-friendly building Saturday.
Acting Wood St. District Commander Capt. Kevin Anderson, 52, who replaced a retired commander in mid-October, described the new facility as "light years ahead" of the existing police station and predicted it will be "a morale booster" for officers.
Built in 1960, the neighborhood police station was eliminated as part of Mayor Emanuel's 2012 budget. Currently the basement at the Wood St. station suffers from flooding and is not ADA compliant, Anderson said.
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy referred to residents' concerns about lessened police presence due to the closure of the station at 937 N. Wood St. as "unfounded."
"A building doesn't keep people safe. The cops do," McCarthy said, citing "more officers on the streets and greater efficiencies."
Policing beats in the consolidated 'Near West' will be reduced from 18 to 15, as reported in a final 13th district beat meeting earlier this month.
Attorney and East Village resident Anne Shaw organized a 'Save the 13th' petition that yielded over 1,800 signatures and toured the 'Near West' station.
"It's big, it's nice, it's really far away. We are most concerned about distance and rapid response times. With a larger beat area we don't know where [the officers] are coming from," Shaw said.
Looking to the future, Shaw said that Staples has "got a very impressive background, knows the 13th District very well, and she's very friendly and committed to working with the community and plans to go to all CAPS meetings."
A police spokeswoman did not return calls for comment.