The Deal To Build A New Federal Courthouse





The federal courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale has been an out-of-date security nightmare that has been falling apart for years.

Replacing that courthouse would mean a lot of money to a select few plugged-in insiders.

When it opened in 1978, the building was designed with open patios and  the latest energy saving ideas.

It also was constructed before federal guidelines requiring a 100-foot setback were instituted in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing in the mid-1990s. And it was built before the Internet and wireless computers transformed offices.

What worked 35 years ago — the building’s opening was covered by yours truly — won’t work today.

So the irrepressible County Commissioner Marty Kiar is prodding the feds to rebuild their courthouse.


Show Me The Money


The biggest roadblock to getting anything done will be the same one that has plagued proposals in the past: No money.

“Its difficult to get money for projects like this,” Kiar admitted. ”It’s a very heavy lift.”

None of that deters Kiar, who ardently agreed to be the commission’s representative on a new courthouse task force appointed by Chief Judge Federico Moreno of the Florida Southern District U. S. District Court.

He is joined on the committee by former Commissioner Ilene Lieberman, who has a law office in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

An active champion of a new federal courthouse for years, Lieberman will steer the committee away from moves that have already failed.

All types of ideas have been floated, including building at the site of Southside School (The city chose to build a park instead.) or tearing down the 110 Tower on Southeast Sixth Street to make room for a new courthouse.

Something needs to be done or Broward folks could end up traveling farther to go to court. Federal judges more than once threatened to move all their cases to West Palm Beach or Miami to get away from the crumbling building.

Kiar’s first step is to invite key members of Congress to Fort Lauderdale to tour the aging courthouse and see how outmoded it is.


Cashing In 


He even has an idea to save some money – a public/private partnership involving swapping land.

If an owner of land near the current county judicial complex could be convinced to trade for other property somewhere else, it could save the project millions. Perhaps a sweetener would be added, like offering the owner relaxed zoning on the new property.

Public/private partnership usually mean somebody is already lining up to make a small fortune.

A new courthouse involving valuable downtown Fort Lauderdale land and a huge construction budget involves so much money it will surely have the good ol’ boys salivating.

Not only land owners, but lawyers, lobbyists and contractors stand to make money. Lots of it.

Cobbling together a deal has always been difficult, which is why it hasn’t been done despite decades of debate.  Now there is a new roadblock — the feds are mandated to cut the budget.  That makes it tougher to come up with the hard cash needed.

Project estimates have been wildly varied over the years, but they fall roughly between $250-500 million.

Right now Fort Lauderdale is eighth on the list for a new courthouse.  And there is little or no money for the courthouses one-through-seven.

“There are difficulties,” Kiar said.

Even the über-enthusiastic Kiar conceded nothing will be done overnight.

Still, Kiar said he is in it for the long haul.

He said, “This is very much worth working on.”

And working on.  And working on.  And working on.




12 Responses to “The Deal To Build A New Federal Courthouse”

  1. Barack Obama says:

    The courthouse is also way too large. There are very few cases that actually happen in that courthouse.

  2. fllobserver says:

    Marti, who you making a land swap with? Bill Schere? OMG he and “I” hate each other- what a bizarre twist

  3. Kwityerbitchin says:

    It is amazing how Democrats just can’t stop trying to spend money we don’t have.

    BTW, why is our federal courthouse falling apart? The building isn’t really that old at 35 years. It was hailed as an architectural masterpiece when it opened. Tell the judges to quit their bitchin. If the federal agencies there need more room, there are lots of empty spaces in Ft Lauderdale to rent.

  4. too funny says:

    Marty Kiar is a great guy – he voted to save The Rain Tree and dogs and cats at the county shelters. So this momentary lapse of reason by him to get people talking about a federal courthouse in Broward is complete pie in the sky nonsense. Or maybe currying favor with some movers and shakers.
    The GSA puts together a list of ‘eligible’ federal districts for new courthouses. It takes years and years to get funding, A/E teams, designs, construction and occupancy. The GSA funded fed courthouse in Miami was not ‘smooth sailing’ but between Miami and WPM the fed courts are covered. Someone in downtown FtLdle must be trying to unload some land. GFL. There is not money for the design and construction. I’ll find the GSA link and post it later.

  5. Studly says:

    The Swap Shop is centrally located, has plenty of parking, can be easily reinforced, Has plenty of rides for the jury during recess, is already owned by a nutjob crook, and alot of defendants could walk to court. What is not to love. Oh yeah, the special interest thieves won’t make any money on it there.

    PS anything lieberman is for , everyone should be against…it is all about what benefits her.

  6. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Why exactly does the courthouse have to be located on extremely overbuilt land in downtown Fort Lauderdale, where traffic is a nightmare and costs are maximized?!?

    There are large lots of undeveloped or otherwise idle land along Oakland Park Blvd in the Lauderdale Lakes area. And much, much more idle land is available over in West Broward. The federal courthouse could have its 100-foot setback, PLUS ample space for FREE parking, in addition to freedom from traffic congestion (maybe not so much along Oakland Park Blvd, but very much so in low-density West Broward…)..

    The hyperconcentration in downtown Fort Lauderdale is ridiculous. Have the courthouse set a good budget-cutting example by moving to a low-density setting. Taxpayer dollars should not be thrown away on overpriced land. Pay less and get much, much more elsewhere in Broward County!

  7. justme says:

    wtf? in europe the buildings are hundreds of years old, if not thousands. we can’t keep a 35-year-old building going? the problem is no regular maintenance. my suggestion… and are you listening? my suggestion is close the federal and county courthouse to all business except emergencies every year for a two week period around december 20th until after new year’s and get all the big maintenance jobs done. nothing goes on at the courthouse during that time anyhow. and then routine maintenance should be done on weekends, too. i’m not talking about cleaning and painting. i’m talking about plumbing and electrical issues and many other things that never get taken care of until there is an emergency.

  8. Watching the Race says:

    Or you could do maintenance after 3pm any day of the week. Nothing gets done at the courthouse then either.

  9. too funny says:

    You are right on. A new bldg. in Europe is less than 100 years old. In USA we don’t even build for the life of a mortgage , esp here in Broward. The Michael Shiff designed courthouse from early 1980’s never had a maintenance budget and a Bldg Engineer, which is why it fell apart. Like a car that you never change the oil.

    You are right. The courthouse under construction now may have been built out in Plantation but ftldle wanted tax base, the cops wanted it near TajMahal Riverfront jail, and the judges went along.
    In spite of the post 911/OK-city setbacks for security. Ftldle fancies itself as the county seat and county ‘downtown’ so they will shoe horn any development in inspite of post occupancy problems and congestion. and there will be both once this is complete and occupied in 3 years (2017)

    IL is trying to be relevant, months after term limits and failed judge run. the worse thing for any outed electeds is the loss of power and relevance. now had she or any others fairly recommended courthouse sites where they should have been built, out west, centrally located, adequate sites, maybe we would acknowledge her and any other retirees trying to stay in the game (and press)

  10. Ha Ha Ha says:

    BSO already has several other jail facilities in Pompano Beach. They should easily be able to open up a new West Broward jail facility and closely coordinate it with the new West Broward federal courthouse. And by “closely coordinate” I mean “creating a secure, fully enclosed corridor between the BSO jail facility and the adjacent federal courthouse”.


    Thanks for the comment, but I don’t know what county jail facilities have to do with a federal courthouse. County jails largely hold inmates awaiting state trial. Please remember that the federal courthouse would deal with civil cases, too. It would also contain other federal offices.

  11. Ha Ha Ha says:

    The US Marshals Service currently does all its pre-trial detention of federal prisoners for the Southern District of Florida in Miami:

    Federal Detention Center (FDC) Miami
    P.O. Box 019118
    33 Northeast 4th Street
    Miami, Florida 33101-9118
    (305) 577-0010

    But in the Northern District of Georgia, the US Marshals Service uses the local jail facility for pre-trial detention of federal prisoners:


    Federal Pretrial Facility
    Male and Female
    Atlanta City Jail
    254 Peachtree SW
    Atlanta, GA
    (404) 865-8000

    BSO can provide the Feds with pre-trial detention services for federal prisoners. The US Marshals service has its detention requirements posted on both of the above-linked pages; BSO’s facility would need to meet those requirements. These are just common-sense requirements that all prisoner facilities should uphold anyway.

    OK, so why BSO and not the feds? Firstly, there is no good reason to have all the jail capacity on the far end of the East side – crime happens on the West side as well. Secondly, the County has a West Regional Courthouse already (100 N Pine Island Rd., Plantation) but they only use it for traffic, misdemeanor, and civil cases at the moment. Law offices are clustered around the West Regional Courthouse area already. The County could make West Regional into a full-service courthouse (including criminal trials) – if the jail capacity was there to support it.

  12. justme says:

    to watching the race:

    there are some large projects, like tearing apart the ceilings and replacing pipes and electrical that need a few days with no one around. they wait until the ceiling collapses, so that’s why i’m suggesting two weeks out of every year for major maintenance. of course after 4:00 pm they could close off a section here and there for jobs that would be done overnight.