Meridiam wins Long Beach courthouse bid

The European infrastructure fund manager has won a contract to finance, build, design, operate and maintain the first social infrastructure PPP in California, which needs $3bn to fund courthouse projects across the state.

A team led by Meridiam Infrastructure has won a contract to deliver the first social infrastructure project in California – the Long Beach Court Building.

Long Beach:
California's first
social infra deal

The project will replace Long Beach’s current courthouse, which was built in 1959 and suffers from functional and design flaws, with a new building that will house 31 courtrooms, California’s Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) said in a statement.

The Meridiam team will provide 100 percent of the financing for the project, as well as responsibility for its building, design, operations and maintenance over a 35 year period, AOC said.

A spokesperson for the AOC declined to provide a cost estimate for the project, as the AOC is now negotiating an exclusive agreement with the Meridiam team for the project’s delivery. The spokesperson did, however, say that the project’s financing will be supported by private equity and bank debt. An earlier press release from the AOC stated that the AOC had received a both bank-funded as well as tax-exempt financing proposals from the three bidding teams qualified to compete for the project.

Aside from the Meridiam team, a group led by California property developer Lankford & Associates and public-private partnership investor Balfour Beatty Capital also submitted proposals.

Meridiam, the Paris-based infrastructure fund manager that will provide equity for the Long Beach courthouse, has successfully procured similar social infrastructure projects in Europe in Canada. But in US, its investment activities have thus far included transportation projects, such as the Port of Miami Tunnel in Florida and North Tarrant Expressway in Texas.

If successful, the project could open doors for similar projects across California’s judicial system. California needs approximately $3 billion just to meet the cost of its immediately needed courthouse projects. And no single source of public funds is large enough to finance those projects, according to the Judicial Council of California website.

The Council has also identified 100 projects for which funding remains to be secured, according to its website.

If California’s Department of Finance approves the project, the project agreement will next be signed and the Long Beach courthouse will proceed to financial close.

Groundbreaking is expected later this year and the new building is scheduled to be completed and ready for occupancy by summer 2013.

Plans for what will happen with the old building have yet to be announced, though the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency, which owns the proposed site for the new project, has informed the AOC that the city has no intention of occupying the old courthouse building.