The Herald covers the deal here:
Miami’s old federal building, a Depression-era Neoclassical masterpiece that’s among the grandest of the city’s historic structures, has been vacant and moldering since 2008, its fate uncertain. But now a rescue is in the offing that will restore it to public use.
After years of negotiation, the federal government has agreed to cede the 1933 landmark to its neighbor, Miami Dade College, for use as an academic and civic building. The college and the government’s property-management arm, the General Services Administration, signed a 115-year, one-dollar-a-year lease agreement Wednesday evening.
The building is really cool:
The federal building, which housed the central Miami post office and all federal agencies but the weather bureau when it opened in 1933, was designed by Coral Gables’ chief architect, Phineas Paist, and Miami architect Harold Steward, with an assist from Marion Manley, the first licensed female architect in Florida and designer of early University of Miami buildings. Paist and Steward also collaborated on the design of Coral Gables City Hall and the buildings at the Liberty Square housing project. (Another Gables connection: that magnificent courtroom mural, Law Guides Florida Progress, is by artist Denman Fink, designer of the Venetian Pool.)***
Although it was the height of the Great Depression, the government spared no expense on the building, believed to be the largest structure in South Florida made of Florida limestone. Window surrounds are made of marble, as are the floors and former post-office tabletops still in place in its elongated lobby. Spandrel panels running beneath the second-story windows on the main facade depict scenes from Florida history. That facade is defined by a towering row of Corinthian columns. Inside, original chandeliers and coffered ceilings are still in place, the college said.
The central courtroom was also the scene of some historic legal events, including the Congressional Kefauver hearings into organized crime that were televised to the nation in the 1950s and the trial of deposed Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega in 1991.I wonder what the College will do with the controversial mural in the central courtroom:
But use of the building gradually declined after the post office moved out in 1976. Most federal judges moved to a modern tower annex which opened in 1983, leaving mostly magistrates in the old courthouse. The last moved out after the newest courthouse opened a block away in 2008. The tower annex remains in use by the courts and is not part of the MDC deal.
The GSA then shuttered the historic building, which had been plagued by mold and complaints from court workers about respiratory ailments that had led to closure of some courtrooms and portions of the structure in 2006. The agency has continued to run the air conditioning to keep humidity and deterioration of the interior under control.
But the GSA came under fire from some Republican members of Congress who, during a 2012 hearing in the Dyer building’s central counrtroom [sic], scolded the agency for wasting taxpayer resources by failing to find a new tenant or sell the courthouse. A member of that delegation, Florida U.S. Rep. John Mica, is a Miami-Dade grad who pushed for the deal to give the college use of the building.