The Virginia Department of Forensic Science is buying 24.8 acres in Hanover County to build a new facility for the Central Forensic Laboratory and Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
In a release on Tuesday, the department announced that it expected to close on the property, located off Times-Dispatch Boulevard in Mechanicsville, later this year.
The agencies will then work with the Department of General Services to complete the programming and design for a 283,000-square-foot facility.
The new site is about 10 miles from the current shared facility and is close to interstate highways for easy access. Construction is expected to begin in 2021 and be completed in 2024.
The acreage consists of three parcels, two owned by Nexstar Broadcasting and one by Southern National Bancorp of Virginia Inc., according to the Department of General Services.
Linda Jackson, director of the Department of Forensic Science, said the demand for forensic services has grown over the years, requiring more scientific and administrative staff, as well as additional equipment and instruments.
“This project will allow regional DFS operations to be housed in one facility that has space for future expansion,” Jackson said.
The department and the chief medical examiner’s office moved into its current facility on North Fifth Street in downtown Richmond in 1998.
Since 2008, the agencies have leased roughly 25,000 square feet in an adjacent facility in order to have enough space for both agencies to conduct scientific and administrative operations. These combined spaces are no longer sufficient for the agencies to operate efficiently and meet the state’s needs.
Last year, the department was authorized to proceed with the expansion and renovation or construct a new central district office elsewhere. Plans to renovate and expand the current facilities in downtown Richmond were found to be less cost-effective than building a new one.
The Department of General Services solicited proposals to purchase land for the new facility in the Richmond area and received 16 responses.
Virginia’s chief medical examiner, Dr. William T. Gormley, said the new facility will provide space for the latest technology and more personnel.
“We also will be better prepared to respond to public health crises and mass fatalities; therefore, allowing us to provide more efficient and effective death investigation services,” he said.
The agencies have other facilities in Manassas, Norfolk and Roanoke.