Brightline owner’s proposal to build a new Miami-Dade courthouse lives on

Mayor Gimenez's rejection earlier this month is now overruled

Miami-Dade County’s courthouse
Miami-Dade County’s courthouse

A proposal by Brightline’s parent company to build a new Miami-Dade Courthouse has been revived.

The Miami-Dade County Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution directing Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to continue negotiating with New Flagler Courthouse Development Partners, or NFCDP, to build a new civic courthouse near the existing courthouse at 73 West Flagler Street. The NFCDP development team includes Florida East Coast Industries, a company that runs the Brightline passenger rail train and is also building the 3-million-square-foot MiamiCentral complex within Miami’s downtown area.

At the same time, the county commission unanimously directed Gimenez to receive bids from other developers interested in building a new courthouse either on Flagler Street in downtown Miami or on county-owned lots near the Children’s Courthouse at 155 Northwest Third Street. The commission also wants a report on the courthouse bid proposals by April 10.

The commission’s vote came against the recommendation of Gimenez, the county’s internal services department, and real estate consultants. Their main concern was that keeping NFCDP’s unsolicited bid would discourage other potential bidders. Gimenez also wanted to limit the site to the county-owned lots near the Children’s Courthouse, arguing that it was ready for development. He also said that the new courthouse could share certain facilities with the Children’s Courthouse. “Gee, two [functioning] courthouses next to each other. What a concept,” Gimenez said to the commission.

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Attorneys and judges have been clamoring for a new civic courthouse to replace the current Miami-Dade Courthouse that was built in 1928. Voters, though, rejected a $390 million bond proposal to build a new downtown area courthouse in 2014.

Since then, the county has been trying to figure how to partner with a developer to build a new courthouse.

On January 11, NFCDP made an unsolicited proposal to build a new courthouse.  The details of that proposal are still unknown as they are covered under a cone of silence. However, on February 6, the county commission directed the mayor to seek bids that would build, at a minimum, a 600,000-square-foot, 26-story building. Tara Smith, director of Miami-Dade County’s internal services, indicated that the courthouse proposal made by NFCDP was somewhat smaller.

Gimenez rejected NFCDP’s bid earlier this month so that a single request for proposal would be put out to build a courthouse near the Children’s Courthouse. The county commission’s vote now effectively overrules that decision.