The Mount Rainier Police Department has a new, environmentally friendly $1.7 million headquarters, after more than a half-century inside a cramped, dilapidated, two-story building on Rhode Island Avenue.

Where before there was hardly an extra inch for conference and interview rooms, the renovated car repair shop turned police station on Route 1, the city's main street, has so much additional space that the 16-member agency hopes to add more officers to strengthen its ranks, Chief Fred Keeney said.

"It's like going from a one-room shack to a condo on Miami Beach," he said this week with a chuckle. "The difference truly is night and day."

Keeney, who stood among city and state officials Tuesday night at the official dedication of the facility, at 3249 Rhode Island Ave., said something as simple as a new building has had a "tremendous impact on the force."

"The other place was depressing to come into and work every day," he said in a telephone interview -- to say nothing of the fact that the former station did not meet safety codes. "I'm convinced we lost a lot of prospective job candidates because of it. I hope this will bring a breath of fresh air to the department."

The small agency patrols less than two square miles, the entire city limits of Mount Rainier, and last year saw an overall crime reduction of 5 percent, with only one homicide, two rapes and 51 assaults reported for the 12-month period.

The new police station, a former dusty, dingy car repair shop, has floor-to-ceiling windows that are designed to absorb the winter sun to heat the building and deflect the summer sun to keep it cool, said City Manager Jeannelle Wallace, keeping with the city's goal to create a "green" building.

Wallace said the old police station, which also functioned as the old city hall, would be restored at some point. She said city officials would discuss its possible uses when next year's budget is drafted.

The city itself has been enjoying a period of growing prosperity, Wallace said, with renovations, face-lifts and cleanups in the city center in recent months.

Mount Rainier is also in the process of trying to become an arts center.

Construction and restoration of a 12-unit building is underway near the new police station that will house artist studios and independent businesses. That building, too, she said, will be environmentally friendly, with a green roof that will have a number of different plants, and a tankless hot water system that will rely on individual tank systems installed in each unit.

"Look for small businesses, dining and entertainment," Wallace said. "It will have a really nice downtown flavor."

The city's new $1.7 million police station was converted into an energy-saving building from a car repair shop at 3249 Rhode Island Ave.