FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – There’s a big change ahead for the Broward County Courthouse. The groundbreaking for a brand-new $213 million, 20-story courthouse took place Tuesday morning.
The new building is the first major construction south of the New River since 1960.
“After serving the public for over 50 years, we are retiring our outdated, worn out courthouse with a new building that will provide a safe working environment for everyone who walks through its doors,” said Chief Broward County Judge Peter Weinstein.
The oldest section of the courthouse is about 400,000 square feet and consists of the West and Central wings which house 38 courtrooms. Consultants have said that all building systems in this area such as plumbing and electrical are beyond their useful life. System failures have temporarily closed the courthouse on several occasions.
“I think the conditions of the courthouse need to be upgraded because we have so many people going in and out of there,” said Chris Wren of the Downtown Development Authority.
The current courthouse has been plagued with problems for years including flooding problems on multiple floors, mold issues, broken elevators and escalators and a frequent lack of air conditioning.
“All of us have impaired the use of the current courthouse, none of them will be a problem in the new courthouse,” said Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman.
The Mayor of Fort Lauderdale agreed.
“Justice will be served in this building, justice will be served whether it be by the State Attorney’s Office prosecuting a case or the Public Defender’s Office defending a case,” stated Mayor Jack Seiler.
The new building will be 741,000 square feet which includes a 500-car secure parking garage. It’ll also have improved security screening areas and a layout that will make it easier for visitors and employees to get around. The new structure will also include 79 new court spaces, emergency generators and 14 new elevators and escalators.
“We need one real bad and I thank god we are getting one,” said Broward County employee Kenneth Frederick.
According to the Downtown Development Authority in Fort Lauderdale, the new courthouse will also likely bring business growth to the city.
“The current courthouse accommodates about 43-percent of our 2,600 businesses downtown, so this expansion is going to be a healthy economic development boost to our downtown too,” explained Chris Wren.
The new courthouse and east wing renovations are scheduled for completion in 2015. The 500-car garage is scheduled for completion in 2017.