A $21 million allocation in the state budget may bring the 2nd District Court of Appeals to downtown St. Petersburg.
According to Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes, the 2nd District Court of Appeals, which is currently housed in a Stetson Law building in Tampa, will move to Pinellas County. Its most likely home? A state-owned property in downtown St. Petersburg, along Mirror Lake.
The Sebring State Building, which sits at 525 Mirror Lake Drive N, could prove to be the perfect site for the new 2nd District Appellate Court, whose jurisdiction runs from Lakeland to St. Petersburg and as far south as Naples. Historically, the court has been located in Lakeland, but was temporarily moved to Stetson Law’s building in Tampa. Its lease there expires in 2023, by which time Brandes said the state would like to see a new building ready for the Court of Appeals.
Calling it a “truly once in a multi-generational opportunity,” Brandes said that rebuilding that site could serve as a catalyst for revitalizing the entire Mirror Lake area. The legislator said he would see the new court building as a signature piece of the historic area of downtown.
While the state is looking at the Mirror Lake property, Brandes said it will explore other options too. He said the Mirror Lake property is a likely candidate because the state already owns it and the site is currently under-utilized.
The initial $21 million investment for the new courthouse was allocated in this year’s 2020-21 budget, which has not yet been fully approved by Governor Ron DeSantis. Despite some changing allocations due to Covid-19, Brandes remains confident that the funds will remain, as he worked “hand-in-hand” with House Speaker-designate, Rep. Chris Sprowls.
The $21 million will not be enough to build the courthouse, Brandes explained, but it will be followed up with a separate appropriation. The current money could be used as soon as July 1 to relocate the agencies currently working in the Sebring building, begin design and engineering plans, or acquire a new property if the judicial building is found to be unfit.
Brandes also announced a separate budget allocation for St. Petersburg College to build another collegiate high school, similar to its Gibbs Campus, in downtown St. Petersburg. This high school, Brandes said, should be focused on arts and tech.
*Update: This story previously featured an erroneous photo of a county building near the same location.