Read the article here: https://www.law.com/dailybusinessreview/2019/11/26/miami-dade-civil-courthouse-plans-unveiled-ahead-of-commission-vote/
Miami-Dade Civil Courthouse Plans Unveiled Ahead of Commission Vote
By Lidia Dinkova | November 26, 2019 at 02:53 PM
Miami-Dade County is poised to select a builder for a new downtown Miami civil courthouse and take a major step in a yearslong, problematic process of getting a new facility.
The County Commission is set to vote next Tuesday on entering a public-private partnership with the Plenary Justice Miami LLC development team. Construction could start as soon as January and be completed in 2024 if the contract is approved.
The legal community has been pushing for a new courthouse with the existing Miami-Dade County Courthouse built in 1928 plagued by mold and leaks.
“We are ecstatic that this is finally coming to an end, and we are confident the vote on Tuesday will be positive. This is something the citizens of Miami-Dade really deserve. There’s going to be access to a safe and clean building with more than three bathrooms,” Chief Circuit Judge Bertila Soto said, joking about the lack of restrooms in the historic building.
The Plenary Justice team is led by concessionaire Plenary Group USA Concessions, which selected the rest of the team. The others are Los Angeles-based builder Tutor Perini Corp., St. Louis, Missouri-based architectural firm HOK and operations and maintenance company Johnson Controls Inc.
The plan calls for a 23-story building with 46 courtrooms and shells for four more courtrooms that would be finished when needed. The 640,000-square-foot building would rise on a half-acre lot owned by the county on Flagler Street between the existing courthouse and Metromover tracks.
The lower floors would be offices for the clerk of courts, judicial support staff and administrative services for the public. The upper floors would house courtrooms and judges’ chambers.
Generally each judge would be assigned to a courtroom and have chambers next door. Four courtrooms would be built per floor, and chambers would be in the corners.
The main entrance would open onto a three-story atrium lobby with a grand staircase. A 59-space parking garage would be in a basement and the first two floors.
The building would have a lot of natural light as each courtroom would have an outside wall, and other areas would have floor-to-ceiling glass.
The design has evolved to focus on the “nature of spaces and what sort of feeling it gives you coming into a courthouse environment,” said Mike Schutt, vice president at Plenary Group in Tampa.
Natural light is a design element intended to create a more calming feel for visitors and staff.
“Courthouses tend to be a really stressful time for people. It’s adversarial by nature,” Schutt said. “The evolution of courthouse design over the years and decades has really been to try to take away or make it as minimally stressful environment as possible.”
A common feature of civil courthouses is the separation between public spaces and special-access areas, Schutt said. Four sets of elevators would be built, two for the public and two for employees.
“The courtroom is the one place where the public and the judges and their staff cross paths,” he said.
Plenary would design, build, operate and maintain the courthouse under a 34-year contract with the county. Miami-Dade is expected to pay over $852 million over that time frame for the courthouse but not all would go to Plenary.
The county has vowed to use no property taxes but is counting on $50 million from a voter-approved bond and the sale of the existing courthouse.
The county would start paying Plenary once it moves in and pay $810 million over 30 years. This breaks down to a fixed annual payment of $21.3 million for capital costs, an interest rate that won’t exceed 4.92% and a maintenance charge that would fluctuate annually with the consumer price index. The first-year maintenance charge would be $4 million.
The county also is allocating $13.3 million for contingencies, $25 million for furniture and security systems, $3.5 million for an art relocation and builders insurance, and $1 million a year for public transportation.
The county used Federal Transit Administration to buy the site for Metromover construction and nontransit use requires an annual payment toward public transportation.
The legal community has backed courthouse construction for many years, but previous efforts failed. On this go-around, the location was in dispute, and developer competition was intense for a major public construction project.
The County Commission in July 2018 picked the Flagler site over Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s recommendation to build a few blocks away near to the Children’s Courthouse.
A selection committee reviewed five competing development groups in two rounds. The first round focused on their qualifications and eliminated two candidates. The second round focused on financing and building designs.
The selection committee ranked Plenary on top, and Gimenez agreed with the recommendation.
Runner-up M-S-E Judicial Partners LLC raised an issue with the ranking, claiming Plenary lowballed its costs and noting the selection committee skipped oral presentations.
Plenary’s current cost is $341 million excluding annual CPI increases, which is 20% less than M-S-E Judicial’s $411 million cost.
Plenary’s project cost is lower because the venture understands the county wants a functional and cost effective project rather than an elaborate one, Schutt said.
Soto echoed this sentiment.
“It’s very efficient and clean. It’s not a Taj Mahal. We think it’s going to serve the community well,” she said. A new First District Court of Appeal, which opened in Tallahassee in 2010, was nicknamed the Taj Mahal for its ostentatious furnishings and finishes.
Miami-Dade Circuit Civil Administrative Judge Jennifer Bailey said the new Miami courthouse “will be an effective, dignified place to conduct court that will protect the health of citizens and jurors that come there.”
Lidia Dinkova covers South Florida real estate for the Daily Business Review. Contact her at LDinkova@alm.com or 305-347-6665. On Twitter @LidiaDinkova.