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Get the latest look at the St. Petersburg Police Department's new digs

ST. PETERSBURG — A groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday morning to kick off construction of the long-awaited, new St. Petersburg Police Department headquarters.

City officials gathered at the site of the new station at 1301 First Ave. N, across from the city's ancient and rapidly deteriorating police building.

The city also released renderings of what the interior and exterior of the new $79 million building will look like.

Construction will soon begin and the building is slated to be finished by the end of 2018. It should be fully operational by the spring of 2018.

The 167,519-square-foot headquarters will give the police force a modern facility with up-to-date facilities for storing evidence. It will also come with a parking garage that can shelter the police force during a storm. The entire facility will be able to withstand a Category 4 hurricane, whereas the current police building is not rated at all.

The city also plans to spend $6.5 million to build a new police new shooting range using what's left of the old range at 1845 13th Ave. N in Woodlawn park. The armory and vehicle storage would be relocated to this facility.

Altogether, St. Petersburg plans to spend about $86 million on these new police facilities, according to the latest budget figures from officials. The latest addition to the project's budget was in February, when the City Council voted to spend another $4.2 millionto add energy efficient features and more parking.

Construction would start this spring with an April groundbreaking and is scheduled to end in 2018. However, the new building wouldn't be fully operational until the spring of 2019.