County and city officials were on hand as the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Broward County courthouse took place Tuesday morning.
The ceremony officially kicked off construction on the new 20-story, 741,000-square-foot courthouse at Southeast 6th Street and Southeast 1st Avenue in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
"The new courthouse is a very beautiful, a sleek high rise building," said Chris Wren, with the Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority. "It will make downtown more healthier, bringing in more restaurants and other fun things."
Construction on the courthouse is scheduled to be completed in 2015. A 500-car secured parking garage is scheduled to be completed in 2017.
The new structure will have 79 court spaces, improved security screening areas emergency generators and 14 new elevators and escalators.
The price tag for the entire project: $213 million.
"This is the first major construction project of a public building south of the New River in decades. The oldest and largest portion of the courthouse that we use today was built in 1960 and much change has taken place since then," Broward County Mayor John E. Rodstrom, Jr. said in a statement. "The new facility will be more suitable for employees and visitors and will also serve to revitalize the area and inspire future growth and economic development."
For years, judges and attorneys have complained about the 50-year-old building's poor condition, constant floods and electrical issues.
"I do not have to discuss the problems the old court has suffered. Suffice it to say, it's time to replace it," Chief Judge Peter Weinstein said.
The oldest section of the courthouse has just 38 courtrooms, and the plumbing and electrical systems are beyond their useful life, according to county officials. Numerous flooding and electrical issues have forced courthouse closures in recent years.
"I want to tell you how much fun it will be to go in the courthouse and know that all the elevators are working for a change, none of the escalators are down, no one is complaining because there's a backup of products in their courtroom or the air conditioning is down for extended periods," Commissioner Ilene Lieberman said.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler is confident justice will be served in the courtroom.
"This is what our system is all about, they will be able to dispense justice in a fair and meaningful way in a facility that is convenient, that is safe and that is secure," he said.