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MIAMI-Pre-planning on a new U.S. courthouse is moving forward at a rapid pace, even though construction on the 500,000-sf building isn’t scheduled to begin until next spring on the 6.5-acre Downtown redevelopment site, the General Services Administration tells GlobeSt.com.

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved $15 million in escalation fees for the $132 million project, and the GSA is now seeking a general contractor to manage construction of the 12-level building.

“We now have a green light,” Michael Roper, GSA project executive, tells GlobeSt.com. “We fully expect funding to be available by this October.”

Total construction is estimated to cost about $264 per sf on the two city blocks that the GSA acquired for about $65 per sf from the owners of WTVJ (Channel 6), an NBC affiliate.

“The building we’re talking about represents maybe 5% of the total area,” Roper says. “We’re going to permit back to the public in the form of a park-like environment. We’ve been working to be sure we do things that are pedestrian-friendly.”

To create 100-foot setbacks, the GSA petitioned elected Miami officials for permission to close Northwest Fourth Street within the development site bounded by Northwest Third Street on the south, Northwest Fifth Street on the north, Northwest First Avenue on the west and North Miami Avenue on the east.

“Closing a street is not something normally done,” Roper says. “Without it, this project would not have been possible.”

This is the second time the city has extended a gesture of cooperation to the GSA to facilitate redevelopment and construction. In the mid-1990s, the city authorized the use of its bonding capacity to develop the 12-level, 247,685-sf James Lawrence King Federal Justice Building at 99 NE Fourth St.

“That is another example of how the city and the federal government has cooperated in bringing new development to that part of town,” Roper notes.

Although it is seeking a general contractor, the GSA already has picked Miami-based Arquitectonica International Inc. as the project architect, with Hellmuth, Obata, Kassabaum Inc. serving as the associate architect. Coconut Grove, FL-based Curtis + Rogers Design Studio Inc. won the consulting contract for landscape design. The values of the individual contracts weren’t disclosed although they will become public information.

“We won’t award the bid for general contractor until later this fall,” Roper says. “We have not finalized the total design for the building. Interior engineering has not been finalized. We want to do construction reviews as we finish the plans, and then site work and construction will begin. The entity chosen will also do the demolition and site work as well.”

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