Photo: HFSC

The Houston Forensic Science Center’s operations have been located in 11 different floors in four buildings in the downtown of the city – including in the Houston Police Department headquarters.

The problem with getting a dedicated new building for the crime laboratory – intended to operate in cooperation but separately with the police – was the tightening financial situation of the city.

Most of the operation will move into a special-designed portion of an existing building – through a lease which fits within the current facility costs, the HFSC announced this month.

“In the end, considering the fiscal realities, we understood that we needed a creative solution that would be keep costs neutral,” said Nicole Casarez, chair of the HFSC board of directors, adding that the plan amortizes the construction costs into the 30-year contract.

The annual facility costs are $2.6 million, according to the agency.

For the same price tag, all 200-plus employees will move to four floors at 500 Jefferson, about a half-mile away from the HPD headquarters, the HFSC adds.

Four floors and a basement will be renovated and tailored for the HFSC at the building, constructed in 1962 as part of the Cullen Center and just a few turns off Interstate 45.

Three floors will be office space, one floor will be for the laboratory workings. The basement will be for a firing range, and for crime-scene evidence processing, taking up 3,000 square feet.

The HFSC and its administration said the facility would enable a better forensic product to the city.

“We are excited by the prospect of finally providing Houstonians with a crime laboratory that has proper ventilation and power needs allowing us to do the kind of work that best preserves public safety,” said Peter Stout, the CEO and president of the HFSC. “We thank City Council for supporting our unique plan that allows Houston to get a superior crime laboratory within tight budget realities.”

The HFSC has wanted to have its own facilities for several years, especially when there were some conflict over the operations of the city’s crime scene unit in the recent past.

The agency will also remain two other properties in the city: a special vehicle examination bay, expected to be upgraded with federal grant money, and also a separate training facility.