A new General Services Administration study examined the possibilities for replacing the U.S. Court in downtown Fort Lauderdale, and concluded that constructing a new facility is likely the best solution.
The current courthouse and federal building suffers from “significant space functionality” issues that impact security for judges and judicial staff and has infrastructure problems, including water intrusion and poor storm drains, the GSA found. Its windows are not up to current windstorm codes.
The GSA study compared the cost of building a 238,993-square-foot courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale with six other options, including maintaining the current building, both maintaining and expanding the current building, and doing a public-private partnership. New construction was the most cost-efficient and feasible option, the study concluded.
The study recommending a new courthouse at the tune of $190.1 million was touted by Congressional representatives Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch — all Democrats representing Broward County. They are pushing for a committee of the Judicial Conference to include the Fort Lauderdale courthouse project on its list of priorities when it meets later in June, followed by its full conference in September. Ultimately, the project would need to be funded by the federal budget through Congress.
“Fort Lauderdale’s federal courthouse serves one of the largest and busiest judicial districts in the country and has been substandard for more than a decade,” Frankel said. “This report takes us an important step forward towards a new safe and secure facility.”
The $190.1 million estimated budget for a new courthouse includes $161 million for construction, $12.2 million for design and $8.25 million for acquiring the site.
The biggest challenge is that the GSA couldn’t identify a vacant site of three to five acres in Fort Lauderdale’s Central Business District that would be suitable for a courthouse. It’s possible, however, that several existing buildings could be purchased and torn down to make way for the project.
“Today’s report brings new hope for the construction of the new federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale,” Hastings said. “I will continue to prioritize securing funding for a new courthouse and ask that the Judicial Conference committee gives this project the attention it rightly deserves.”