The People’s Buildings
Dallas County and Source and S&P, a Joint Venture partner on transformative project in South Dallas
When most hear the word “construction,” they envision the creation of tangible structures or buildings formed to fulfill practical functions. However, after just minutes of conversation with the Dallas County leaders and general contractors spearheading the construction of the South Dallas Government Center and neighboring Sheriff’s Academy, it is clear that the significance of any construction-related work product has the power to transcend the physical formation that meets one’s eye.
Rather than discussing the intricacies of the work involved or materials used to construct a 98,000-square-foot complex with a contract value of $29 million, the people behind this project discuss the not-yet finished facility as if it were an independent life force. “As was intended, this complex has taken on the life of the local southern Dallas community,” says County Administrator Darryl Martin.
“Our hope is that it will serve as the people’s buildings.”
In June 2019, construction began on the 73,000-square-foot South Dallas Government Center. The two-story steel structure with concrete slabs will house the sheriff’s 911 dispatch call center doubling as a storm shelter, the sheriff’s highway management and traffic division, a constable’s office, a Veterans Affairs office,, a tax office, two courtrooms, two judge’s chambers, the office of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, and even a canine unit.
Less than a year after construction began on the South Dallas Government Center, the construction of a second building was added to the scope of work as part of a change order to the original contract. The 25,000-square-foot, single-story, steel-structured Sheriff’s Academy will sit adjacent to the South Dallas Government Center and will serve as a training facility for current and future deputies, detention service officers and current officers from other agencies.
The two buildings, referred to as “the complex,” are scheduled for completion in February 2021 and will occupy roughly 14 acres of land on South Polk Street in Dallas.
Successfully executing a project of such magnitude proves a challenge in and of itself, notwithstanding the added pressure of the county and local community’s hopes for its potential to showcase the spirit of southern Dallas and spur future development in the area.
However, ready for the challenge were general contractors Satterfield & Pontikes Construction, Inc. (S&P) and minority-owned Source Building Group, Inc. (Source Building Group). “Our firms were already working together on a project less than a mile down the road from what will be the new Dallas County complex, so it made sense logistically to team up and bid for this project,” says Sr. Vice President of S&P Jason Haralson. President and CEO of Source Building Group Trelaine Mapp adds, “Our firms share core values and have histories of building projects in the Dallas community. We were confident in the collective value that we would bring to Dallas County.”
Source and S&P, a Joint Venture (Source/S&P) was awarded the role of general contractor in May 2019. Since, Trelaine and Jason have worked collaboratively with county leaders, project manager Pritchard Associates, and designer and architect of record KAI, among other firms, to successfully execute the project scope, ensuring that a quality complex is built for the county safely, on time and within budget. Darryl recalls speaking with the project team during a kickoff meeting before the project’s official commencement. “I told everyone in the room that my expectation is that their A-teams work on this project,” he says. He explained to the team the county’s desire to include significant participation from minority- and woman-owned firms, and that the end product proves a beautiful facility for which the local community may feel proud.
A Modern Facility
According to Darryl, one of the primary reasons the construction of this complex was justified is because of the intense need for a modernized facility to enhance the operations of some of the county’s most crucial departments, one of which is the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department.
Currently, the department operates out of the decades-old Lew Sterrett Justice Center adjacent to the Frank Crowley Courts Building. Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown says that the department outgrew its current dispatch space years ago and desires to move its headquarters outside of central downtown Dallas so that its critical operations may continue in the event of a citywide shutdown or emergency.
Jason and Trelaine say that innovation and collaboration among project team members were crucial to accommodating the department’s needs. “The most innovative feature of the new complex is the storm shelter installed on the first floor of the South Dallas Government Center,” Jason says. “If a tornado hits the building, the shelter, which doubles as a 911 dispatch call center, will remain intact and Sheriff’s Department employees may continue communicating with relevant stakeholders.” Jason says that Source/S&P was well-equipped to construct this shelter, as the two firms previously constructed a similar shelter at David W. Carter High School.
Additionally, Source/S&P installed a 160-foot radio tower to enable emergency broadcasting from the storm shelter. “The biggest challenge of the project thus far was the installation of the radio tower,” Trelaine says. “It is tremendously visible, even from Interstate Highway 20, and its installation required precise coordination among our whole team. We dotted all i’s and crossed all t’s.”
When describing what this project means to her department, Sheriff Brown says, “Dispatchers are often taken for granted, yet their roles are crucial. All day, they receive calls from people in crisis and are tasked with calming them down and connecting them with the proper resources. The thoughtful design and construction of this complex is intended to facilitate their well-being and the success of their operations.”
Moreover, Sheriff Brown says that the new, modern Sheriff’s Academy with state-of-the-art equipment and technology will serve as a positive recruitment tool and an attractive venue for the in-service courses offered to law enforcement agencies throughout Dallas County. “It is amazing to watch how the project team has worked to bring our vision to life,” she says. “We are ecstatic about this new facility.”
Though unexpected obstacles plague nearly every construction project, this project team has confronted more than most. In addition to navigating the construction of the storm shelter and installing the logistically complicated radio tower in the South Dallas Government Center, Source/S&P has experienced an above-average number of rain delays and was forced to change its work and safety protocols abruptly in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Despite these challenges, the project team not only met but exceeded industry standards every step of the way. For example, though there is no minority participation requirement for this project, the team has achieved 41% participation from minority- and woman-owned businesses thus far, which for context, is well above the federally mandated goal of 18.2% for Dallas County and the city of Dallas’ goal of 25%.
Additionally, Source/S&P successfully procured critical-path materials before the beginning of the pandemic and passed every COVID-19-related city inspection, thereby avoiding project schedule delays and indicating the quality of the communication and safety protocols instituted on the job site. “We host weekly conversations with our subcontractors about maintaining safety protocols on-site and closely monitor the supply and shipment status of materials critical to the complex’s construction,” Jason says.
The project team also proved flexible in response to the county’s desire to adapt the complex’s design to include building improvements that are not part of the original design, in an effort to improve the safety and well-being of county staff and residents in a post-COVID-19 working environment. Examples of improvements being considered—and for which funding has been approved—include automatic sliding doors at all entrances, touch-free plumbing fixtures and water coolers, UV-C and bipolar ionization units to treat air systems, foot pulls in lieu of door handles and more.
“After a project begins, I typically get involved only if a problem arises,” Darryl says. “In this case, the project team has remained on task, budget and schedule.”
Trelaine says that employees at both Source Building Group and S&P pride themselves on being “community builders” and therefore feel honored to participate in the construction of a “historic complex in the southern sector of Dallas.”
For Jason, his own passion for the project derives from the collective excitement of the local community and end users of the complex. “We are builders; this is what we do for a living. However, there is something special about constructing a facility that the owners and community are behind,” Jason says. “Witnessing everyone’s excitement at the groundbreaking ceremony was moving, and I look forward to seeing county employees’ and local residents’ faces when they have the opportunity to enter their new space.”
Fulfilling a Community Need
Darryl emphasizes Commissioner Price’s critical role in the successful execution of the county’s collective vision for the project. “He was a driving force behind this project and is insistent upon it proving an accurate reflection of the local community,” Darryl says. “He drives by or walks the site nearly every day and underscores the importance of visible minority participation in the construction of the buildings so that local community members may see that this complex is being built by and for people just like them.”
While describing the southern Dallas community’s support of this project, Darryl recounts a time he was approached at his church by a South Dallas resident. “I don’t normally tell people what I do for a living, so I was surprised when an older, retired gentlemen approached me and said, ‘I finally know what you do.’ ” The man continued, “You are one of the people building that pretty building nearby. It’s such a blessing that this community will finally have local access to county services.”
The gentleman had seen Darryl’s name on one of the buildings when passing the job site and took time out of his day to let Darryl know how consequential it is that, for the first time, he won’t have to use public transportation to access Dallas County’s services. “I’m proud that South Dallas residents like him will soon have a beautiful government complex in the heart of their community that they can call their own,” Darryl says.