County releases plans for "new" Grove Playhouse
The county calls it a "transformation of this local icon," but to be honest, they let it deteriorate for over 10 years, letting termites and weather do all the work of demolition by neglect. It was never looked after or taken care of and until a friend set up something in the middle of the night a few years back to have portions painted to protect it, it was just left to rot. If any of us would have let our property go like this, we would have been fined. But the city and county ignored it.
In 2004, citizens voted to save the Playhouse and $20 million in taxes was put aside to restore the structure. But only the façade will be saved.
From the "background materials" sent out:
"The plan for the renewed theater takes into account both the historic and cultural significance of the site by saving the most architecturally significant parts of the Playhouse, the iconic corner building and its ornate façade wrapping around Main Highway and Charles Avenue. The original design intent will be restored by having retail once again engage the street.The plan maintains the original diagonal axis, along which a new twenty-first century theater will be positioned. A crescent shaped outdoor space, reminiscent of the original lobby space, will create the transition between old and new and serve as a community gathering space even when no events are taking place in the theater. The new theater will include the front-of-house and back-of-house spaces and amenities that contemporary users and audiences expect and demand.
"A parking garage is proposed for the north side of the site where surface parking currently exists. The garage will serve the needs of theater as well as nearby merchants and the Grove community."
The garage seems to be for 500 cars and will sit on the parking lot space that is currently there next to the theater facing Main Highway. There will be retail on the first floor of the garage. And hidden in the plans are 35 residential units that will be part of the new structure. They are 1/1 and 2/2 condos. That was never a doubt in my mind, you can never just have something done to please the public, there always has to be some sort of back end, money-making scheme involved.
It goes on: "The County’s contract for architectural and engineering work includes a master plan for a two theater scheme: the funded 300-seat theater for GableStage; and a second 700-seat theater which is unfunded."
Joseph Adler, Producing Artistic Director of GableStage, is the theater company that will operate and program the new 300 seat theater. The 700 seat theater is a whole different animal and will have (if ever built) it's own director.
This whole process can take up to three years including a year and a half just for architectural designs.
The bottom line is that the façade will be saved, the wrap around of the building's front, so as you enter the village, you'll see the playhouse as it was. You can clearly see that part in the photo above. The plan is to bring it back to it's original 1927 look. Behind it, the interior will be all new and state-of-the-art as they say. That's the huge auditorium part in the back. And to the right of the building, in the photo, is the surface parking lot now, which will be the new garage. The residential units will be part of the mix in there somewhere. From a diagram I saw, it appears as if they will be on either side of the garage.
Many who worked there are not pleased with the plans, they want the whole structure saved. Others feel that making it a modern theater is the answer, but I've been to quite a few plays up north, and the theaters are all the original theaters, many from the turn of the century. They are restored and renovated, but the look feel and essence are still there. Sort of like the Guzman Theater in downtown Miami.
I recently saw Melissa Etheridge perform in an old original theater in South Hampton, Long Island; and Jesse Tyler Ferguson in a play in the Lyceum Theatre in NYC. The theater was part of the charm. The Lyceum is the oldest continuously operating legitimate theater in NYC. Opened in 1903 and still going, it has landmark status.
There are those who want a new theater, there are those who want the original theater and there are those who just want something open and running.
Here are the background materials and links there to other reports and proposed plans that you will find of interest, including renderings and drawings.
Town Meeting: Update on the Coconut Grove Playhouse
Thursday, December 8
6:00 pm to 8:30 pm
Ransom Everglades Auditorium, 3575 Main Highway.
On a side note, I found these interesting articles, that maybe the County should read:
10 Steps for Restoring Historic Theaters.
and this: Theater Preservation Guidance.
and: What it takes to restore a 1929 Brooklyn 'Wonder Theater'
Anyway, I'm picturing that scene in Frankenstein where the townspeople chase him with pitchforks and fire. I'm seeing this sort of thing happening at next week's meeting at Ransom.
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