It’s decided: Miami-Dade commission chooses Flagler site for new downtown courthouse

Developer expected to be selected by Sept. 2019 and construction on new courthouse will begin by July 2020

Jul.July 24, 2018 06:00 PM

The new downtown courthouse will be built by a private real estate developer on the site of a park across the street from the current 90-year Miami-Dade County Courthouse, county commissioners decided on Tuesday.

The resolution, sponsored by Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman, eliminates a 42,000-square-foot parking lot near the Miami Children’s Courthouse at 155 Northwest Third Street. Instead, that site will continue to be used as parking until funds can be obtained to build a future facility related to children services.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez wanted to build the future 600,000-square-foot courthouse on the surface lot by the Children’s Courthouse, arguing that it would be $6.3 million cheaper to build at that site than at the 25,000-square-foot park abutting the Metrorail near the county’s main library and HistoryMiami.

However, several lawyers and business leaders in Miami’s downtown area wanted the future courthouse to be built on the park just west of the current courthouse at 73 West Flagler Street.

Miami-Dade County is seeking to partner with a private developer to build a new civil courthouse after county voters rejected a $390 bond issue in 2014. Lawyers and judges insist that the current courthouse is an unsafe and unhealthy building and needs to be replaced.

The process of finding a developer to build a new courthouse has been a bumpy and controversial one, complicated by an unsolicited bid issued by Florida East Coast Industries, a real estate development company that owns the Brightline train system and is building the 3-million-square-foot MiamiCentral project in downtown Miami. That bid, which was submitted in January, proposed building a new courthouse on the Flagler Street park site in exchange for $26 million a year for the next 35 years. Other companies that have expressed interest in building a new courthouse so far include Fengate Capital Management, the Plenary Group, Sacyr Infrastructure USA, and M-S-E Judicial Partners. The details of their bids are still unknown due to the county’s cone of silence rule.

The current timeline calls for a developer to be selected by county commissioners by Sept. 2019 and for construction on a new courthouse to begin by July 2020.

The county is also seeking a developer interested in purchasing the historically designated civil courthouse. FECI has expressed interest in the past of turning it into a hotel.

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