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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

No movement at the Playhouse

The Coconut Grove Playhouse was brought up at the Village Council meeting last week. According to Patrick Sessions, head of the Council, the old Board of Directors and the current development company are "at odds."

Patrick would like to start a committee to possibly help break the logjam. Too many egos are involved (mostly on side of the board) and it would be a good idea for them to start thinking of Coconut Grove and not just themselves.

So far, while Joseph Adler has been brought in
from the GableStage to operate the theater, nothing has been done on the construction end. $20 million dollars is available, which was designated by Miami-Dade County's capital-improvement funds in 2004, but the money can be taken away at any time. This is a county project, not a city project.

Ron Nelson, Chief of Staff for Commissioner Marc Sarnoff feels that it's a good idea for everyone to pressure the current board and get them to make a move. Patrick feels that if it needs to go to court, that needs to be facilitated and that may be the only way to get the inept board to make a decision.

Village Council member Michelle Niemeyer brought up a good point in that the board may be liable if the $20 million is revoked because of their apathy. The board has denied access to their records, so something is up there.

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Blogger Brian Breslin said...

internal arguments aside (since i don't know what's going on). the playhouse used to be such a vibrant beacon of light for the neighborhood. the grove sorely needs a venue thats available for performances both artistic and musical.

February 24, 2010 11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would somebody please explain the organization of the playhouse? It has a board appointed by the county, creditors, a non-profit? Why is there a board and developer? Shouldn't the board hold a biding for the repair work? Isn't it a historical landmark meaning it needs to be repaired in accordance with local historical preservation ordinances? The CGP website has no information at all.

February 24, 2010 11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the record , a few quick comments.
I did not call the current playhouse board "inept". I did say that the situation has reached an intolerable point and that it is not just the stakeholder's at the playhouse who are involved, that all of Coconut Grove residents and businesses have been adversely affected, as well as the cultural community all over the city. I also do not know all the details and issues but I hope that the Board, the Development partner, and everyone else involved in this stalemate will be willing to come together and do what we do when this happens in any successful business, get in a room, talk about the issues and don't come out until they reach a resolution that everyone can live with. Hopefully the CGVC can help facilitate that process.
Patrick Sessions
Chairman, CGVC

February 24, 2010 12:17 PM  
Blogger Tom Falco said...

I am calling them inept Patrick, I was not inferring that you were calling them inept. I call them inept in all stories I do on the Playhouse because the current board is inept.

February 24, 2010 12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification.

February 24, 2010 1:55 PM  
Blogger Brian Breslin said...

what would be faster & cheaper, tear it down and rebuild from scratch (modern facilities), or going through the expensive process of removing the mold, fixing the infrastructure, modernizing it while retaining the building structure.

the building may be historic, but wouldn't it make more sense to build something that is geared towards 21st century patrons? something that will last us the next 100 years?

February 24, 2010 2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that Harry Gottlieb is the new City Film Director, maybe he can get a solution to this problem?

February 24, 2010 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pat Sessions is usually right on the money. He always speaks his mind with conviction and integrity
in spite of the consequences.
That in and of itself is a rarity in this town.
Kudus Pat, please stay on top of these issues and we just might make some headway.
On a selfish note I hope in the not too distant future, you'll be in a position to really make a difference in local politics.
Thank you for all your concern regarding our wonderful little village.

A diehard supporter.

February 24, 2010 5:41 PM  
Anonymous Confused said...

This says Aries is the developer:


This says Aries has issues:



February 24, 2010 6:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michelle may not be so far off her comment. this morning on Takeaway.org they discussed the millions that was yanked from a project due to non compliance. Money is hard to come by if you don't use it you loose it. There are starving children in other parts . .........

February 25, 2010 10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, 20 million USD right? 10 million for repairs, 10 million for an endowment. Keep a full-time staff of three or four, perhaps housed on or near location in housing made affordable. You have yourself an awesome non-profit community theatre that can be rented out for just about anything, run theater camps for kids, etc..

If you want to take a more adventurous step, make it a theater open to the entire Caribbean world and its diverse traditions, after all, it is at the end of Charles Street.

How hard is that to pull off?

February 25, 2010 5:10 PM  
Blogger C.L.J. said...

OK, 20 million USD right? 10 million for repairs, 10 million for an endowment.

Anon, your math is waaaay off.
First, the entire 20 million has to be spent on the building; it cannot be used for any other purpose.

Second, to repair the existing structure's completely rotted out steel reinforcement within the concrete would cost about 250 million dollars. That does not include replacing the roof, removing all the internal plaster to get at mold, replacing all the plumbing, replacing all the wiring - and I could go on for pages.

The fact is that the existing structure was partially condemned even before it closed, and now it's been ignored. So "repair" simply is not a realistic option.

Even if it was, it would leave a theatre completely unsuited to producing theatre in the 21st century. It was a half-assed conversion in 1955, and they got away with it because there wasn't anything else around. That's not true anymore. The 900 seat auditorium was too many seats for a regional theatre.

But the biggest problem hasn't even been mentioned, and that's the 4 million dollar debt that must be settled before Adler and his group can become involved. And Adler and his people should be heavily involved in building the new performance spaces on the site.

This is a huge mess that's not going to be sorted out anytime soon.

February 25, 2010 6:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know about 250 million construction costs. Is that just hyperbole?

That comes out to about 185 million euros which would make just about every Italian construction fraud job pale in comparison. It only took the UK 30 million dollars to fully repair over 100 mediaeval churches a few years back. For under 250 million, you could build an impressive office tower in LA.

February 25, 2010 11:45 PM  
Blogger C.L.J. said...

Anon-11:45, 250 million is a reasonable estimate of trying to rehabilitate a building the size of the Coconut Grove Playhouse that suffers from spalling (or 'concrete cancer').

The Playhouse is not stone or masonary: it's steel reinforced concrete. Or it was: all the steel has rusted to nothing. And before anything else can be done to the building, all that steel has to somehow be replaced.

And you're right about the cost: you could build most of another Arsht Center with that kind of money. That's why the building needs to come down.

There was a high school in Dade County that had the same problems: they demolished it and rebuilt from the original plans - with adjustments to bring it to the new code. It cost less than half of what it would have cost to just fix the rotted structure.

February 26, 2010 7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I ran this buy a few builders up north. Has an out of state structural engineer been hired? Has that report been made public?

February 27, 2010 12:07 PM  
Blogger will smith said...

I know the top administrator for the playhouse. I asked her what was happening and she said, who knows. We do all of you get your info from?

February 27, 2010 6:43 PM  
Blogger C.L.J. said...

Will, there is no "top adminstrator" for the Playhouse right now, there is only the Board of Directors. I assume you're referring to Shelly Spivack, and I am not surprised she is unaware of all the things going on that she should be aware of. The only reason she's still on the board is that no one else wants to get dragged into the morass of debt and corruption and fiscal incompetence she's created.

February 28, 2010 4:41 PM  

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