BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. (AP) — The Minneapolis division of the FBI has traded its cramped office space in a downtown skyscraper for a standalone facility with state-of-the-art security — including blast-proof walls and windows, an exterior guard station and surveillance cameras.
It took nearly two years to complete the $61 million complex in Brooklyn Center, and the bureau’s 200 local agents and staff members moved last month. FBI field offices across the country are making similar moves to standalone buildings, largely in response to the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City.
“As a result of that bombing, the federal government has taken a completely different stance on how we build buildings,” Special Agent in Charge Donald Oswald said Friday. “They are just trying to make sure that an Oklahoma bombing situation never happens again.”
The facility has some upgraded amenities, such as a fully equipped emergency operations center that will allow employees to immediately get to work in the event of a crisis. In the past — during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, for example — agents in Minneapolis had to set up a makeshift command center when emergencies arose.
“This is basically ready to go at a moment’s notice,” FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said of the new emergency operations center. “In these types of situations, speed counts.”
The new field office is the headquarters for the Minneapolis FBI division, which oversees Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. The new 138,000-square-foot building is on land the federal government purchased for $1.
The federal government is paying $6.4 million each year to lease the building from Las Vegas developer Molasky Group. The bureau also contributed about $15 million toward construction costs, because of unique needs of the FBI, Oswald said.
The facility gives the FBI room to grow. They now have space for task force officers to gather and work, and agents who investigate computer crimes — who used to work in a building across the street from their colleagues — are now under the same roof.
The new office also has some personal touches: Artwork in the halls feature photographs from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota; most were taken by FBI staff. An area by the elevator bay features inspirational quotes from leaders such former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and President Abraham Lincoln.
But it is clear security is the top priority. A fence around the perimeter has sharp points to make it difficult to climb. Horizontal blinds on the windows must be kept at a 45-degree angle or closed, so no one can see inside.
Inside, rooms are soundproof, and access among areas is strictly monitored. Employees are required to use key cards and personal codes to move through the building, and the most highly sensitive areas have additional combination locks and other security measures.
There are no fingerprint or retinal scans yet, Loven said, but the FBI hopes to implement those someday.
“We are very locked down here,” Loven said. “We are Fort Knox — minus the gold.”
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)