Oviedo Mall wants new police station, city hall to replace old Sears building

Voters could decide whether to approve funds for new police station

OVIEDO, Fla. – Oviedo City Council members voted Monday to ask residents for an additional $35.5 million to knock down the city’s existing police station and build a new one.

But the Director of Development at the Oviedo Mall, Kevin Hipes — who’s been struggling to revitalize the half-empty shopping center — pitched his own plan at Monday night’s meeting. He’s trying to entice the police station and all of City Hall to move to the mall. And the council voted unanimously to put the referendum on the November ballot.

Hipes wants the City of Oviedo to renovate the old Sears building at the mall to become the new police station and city hall.

Hipes said he would give the city the old Sears building as long as it pays to renovate it and pays $1.2 million per year to lease the surrounding land — 4.5 acres of mostly parking lot space.

“The good news is you take a building that’s been empty in this town for four and a half years off the market and bring it to life again,” Hipes said. “Secondly, you don’t have to knock down any trees, it’s a repurposing. Third and most importantly, it brings everything together, all the activity in one place. The mall, City Hall, the police department, all of the employees could shop, all get their hair done and nails done and go to the fitness center and after a tough day at the council meeting, they get a beer at my craft beer joint. I think it’s a great solution.”

Oviedo Mayor Megan Sladek prefers to rebuild the police department behind City Hall for as much as $47 million.

“If there was a way to sell what we have and own the footprint he’s (Hipes) proposing, the math makes sense,” Sladek said. “But the lease is a deal breaker. I think from my perspective I don’t see how that math works.”

Sladek said she’s planning to vote to let taxpayers decide in November if they want to fund the new police building.

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Oviedo has said it needs an additional $35.5 million to rebuild, on top of the $11.5 million that voters approved in 2016.

“Of all the options this is the one that makes the most sense because it doesn’t have to be exactly where it is,” Sladek said. “So we can build a separate building and do it the right way and have the flexibility to put it on whatever piece of land makes sense.”

The Oviedo Police Department is nearly three decades old.

The City Council already received approval from taxpayers for $11.5 million in funding in 2016 to rebuild it but Oviedo didn’t do anything with the approval because it wasn’t enough.

“So we got permission to borrow $11.5 million but we never borrowed it. So we have not for all this time been paying interest on it which is wonderful news,” Sladek said.

Now, seven years later, with soaring construction costs, it’s not nearly enough.

According to Oviedo’s City Council meeting agenda, they’ll vote to put this question on the November ballot:

  • The Oviedo Public Safety Building project requires an estimated $46,900,000 to construct. Voters approved $11,400,000 for the project in 2016. Shall the City issue additional bonds not exceeding $35,500,000 bearing interest not exceeding maximum legal rates pledging the City’s full faith and credit for up to thirty years from date of issuance, payable from ad valorem taxes on all City taxable property, without limitation as to rate or amount, as provided in Ordinance No. 1735?

“It would have been cheaper to build seven years ago,” Sladek said. “We just did not have resources and there didn’t seem to be the oomph to get the job done at the time.”

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About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for News 6 and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting.