In My Opinion

Fred Grimm: Old Broward women’s prison ripe for rebranding

 

fgrimm@MiamiHerald.com

For sale: a residential campus on 66 very secure acres of primo real estate along U.S. 27 in western Broward County.

The joint sleeps 624, maybe more if your guests don’t mind a few nights in solitary confinement. Or, as we like to say in our rebranding effort, “our individual meditation lounges.”

Think of it as a convention center for the disaffected.

The state of Florida has hired a CBRE, a “global leader in real estates services,” to handle the sale of the surplus property next month on the western reaches of Sunshine Ranches that includes a guardhouse at the front entrance and 40 other buildings in a fenced enclosure. Marketing these structures ought to be a cinch, given that they’re hurricane-proof, burglar-proof and — perhaps not the selling point it once was — escape-proof.

The Broward property appraiser’s office has assessed the parcel at $10 million, though the state expects bids to come in much higher. After all, some famous names lend the place a certain historic cachet. Serial killer Aileen Wuornos slept here. So did infamous black widow murderer Judias Goodyear Buenoano. And convicted cop-killer Sonia Jacobs.

The Florida Department of Corrections, faced with a declining prison population, is selling off four work camps and seven prisons, including the Broward Correctional Institution. BCI once housed Florida’s Death Row for women, the longtime address of Wuornos and Buenoano, the only two female prisoners ever executed by the state of Florida. (The deal includes what surely must be the only death row, ever, with pink walls.)

The state closed BCI back in 2012, to the relief of nearby residents in Sunshine Ranches and Pembroke Pines. Locals, in their upscale subdivisions, were not enthused about crazy killer ladies sharing their ZIP Code.

At least BCI’s residents didn’t put much stress on the local infrastructure. They didn’t clog up the highways. Didn’t demand greater police presence in their neighborhood. Didn’t show up at city commission meetings to complain about traffic or potholes or trash pick-ups. They pretty much kept to themselves.

Once the prison has been sold and revamped into some busy, money-churning venture, folks in Southwest Ranches might find that they miss Aileen and the girls.

South Florida commercial real estate developers will no doubt fall back on their automatic default proposal for any sizable chunk of land near a blacktop road. Death Row Resort Casino does have a certain ring.

BCI might be ripe, in an era of downsized expectations, for condo conversion. Perhaps a charter school that keeps kids in lockdown until they pass their core standards test. Or a wedding chapel designed to remind grooms that they’re about to plead to a life sentence. BCI might also offer Miami Beach the only possible convention center design and location that won’t set off internecine warfare.

Better yet, BCI would make a dandy county government center, conveniently located for the next round of corruption indictments. Mayors and commissioners in one cellblock. Lobbyists and bagmen in the other.

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