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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

County makes Coconut Grove Playhouse deal

Architect Richard Heisenbottle's rendition of the new playhouse.
The County Commission adopted a resolution yesterday, December 17, to save the Coconut Grove Playhouse. A management and operating agreement between Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami Department of Off-Street Parking (Miami Parking Authority) has been approved and the City and County will work hand in hand.

They have authorized Mayor Carlos Gimenez to execute settlement agreements in the amount of $120,000.  The hope is that
the plans by architect Richard Heisenbottle are implemented, which saves the facade. A plan being discussed is to demolish the building and put up a smaller structure with retail and restaurants, but this sort of kills the idea of saving the playhouse because if this happens, then it really isn't the Coconut Grove Playhouse anymore, it's just a new building presenting plays.

There is a January 15 deadline to pay expenses and while millions are still due to creditors, $120,000 is what is due by January 15. The State of Florida, the current owner wants to clear the title. 

A 50 year renewable lease with the county is the goal, once the county receives possession from the state, which is the plan now.

The City of Miami is owed $1.9 million and the Coconut Grove BID is owed $34,000 in assessment fees and there are bunch of other creditors which all add up to the $3.5+ million.

The County would like to have FIU and GablesStage run the show once the Playhouse is back up and operating. It's been closed since April 2006.

A lot of the debt money could come not from the playhouse itself, but by the parking next door, It generates  over $200,000 per year and that money would be used to help pay down debt.

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Blogger Brian Breslin said...

Would it be more fiscally prudent to keep the facade and build something behind it that will survive another 25-50 years? There is a ton of mold in there if I understand it correctly, and I'm sure wiring is not up to par.

Why not build something the community can use for the next 50 years? slapping paint on a crumbling building that doesn't serve modern needs is wasteful. we've waited 8 years almost for it to re-open, why not wait another year and build something we can be proud of. Something that is inspired by the old, but looks to the future.

December 18, 2013 10:29 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Agree here with Brian. I think there would be a opportunity here to build an apartment building with large retail/playhouse portion on the bottom... This is a great spot location wise and it would be a waste to put something a lot smaller in there...

December 18, 2013 3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Restore it, don't destroy it.

December 18, 2013 5:56 PM  
Anonymous Save the Coconut Grove Playhouse Facebook Page said...

Brian and "Unknown" are obviously quite unfamiliar with the reality, plans and issues involved here. No one has suggested "slapping on paint" to solve the Playhouse's needs of repair. Were they there when Richard Heisenbottle presented his vision plan to Commissioner Suarez and Dade Heritage Trust where he assured everyone that the Playhouse can be repaired without being bulldozed? I was there. And I heard him say he had personally inspected the building and was thoroughly familiar with the condition of the structure and was confident it could be restored with its historic integrity intact. And since Brian brought up fiscal prudence, it is worth mentioning that time and time again it has been proven that historic preservation and economic revival are not mutually exclusive but are interdependent. South Beach Deco District is an example of that. Tourists can go anywhere to see the same ol' same ol' of repetitive Cocowalk style shopping centers. What DOES draw tourists is a sector of town devoted to the unique history carefully preserved and maintained in its authenticity, character and soul. If you are talking honestly about bringing back Coconut Grove from what killed it in the first place, then demolishing it and replacing it with commercially developed monstrosities couldn't be farther from the truth of what is needed. And Miami Dade County should be ashamed of making secret deals with Aries Corporation with its ties to mortgage fraud, lawsuits and shady real estate deals. Now Miami Dade has given a portion of the Playhouse property to Aries. At this rate, Miami will never shake its image as a haven for political corruption and real estate hucksters.

December 18, 2013 6:08 PM  
Blogger Brian Breslin said...

@Save the Coconut Grove Playhouse Facebook Page

You're missing my point. Can this building be upgraded to appeal to the interests of theater goers or needs of theater operators in 2025?
I want the space to be mixed use. The grove has no good music venues, why is that? I would love to see concerts in a 400-500 person theater on days there aren't plays or musicals. Why can't we adapt this to the needs of current grovites? The building from the 1920s was designed for the audiences of the 1920s. People today expect state of the art air conditioning, wifi, great acoustics, and more.

I didn't suggest turning it into something like what we're going to see at scotty's.

December 18, 2013 7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian, I agree in large part with your point. Plays alone will not make this place viable. It needs to be mixed use.

In addition, I just want to note that Miami's version of historical preservation is funny. Tell someone from europe about the effort to protect a 90 year old "historic" structure and see if they can hide the giggle... The playhouse is obviously not the best example of that, but in Miami, we're trying to protect things from the 70s!??!?! as historic. It is funny.

December 19, 2013 3:36 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

No I am totally getting your point, but you completely missed mine. What the Europeans are laughing at are small minded greedy Americans whose values are so vastly different from Europeans specifically because of issues like this where we sacrifice our history and character for the self serving interests of commercial exploitation. And guess what? What constitutes a historical site is---surprise--obviously going to be relative to the age and history of a given city. And just to educate you, the city of Miami is not as old as Europe, so a 90 year old building is not going to lose its historical validity just because the place is not as old as a European location. The Statue of Liberty was created a mere 40 years prior to the Coconut Grove Playhouse yet few people would be stupid enough to arrogantly declare the Statue of Liberty historically insignificant because it is not as old as the Acropolis in Greece.

And please do elaborate on what you know about the interests of theater goers and how you are able to discern the future as to what those interests will be in 2025. The issue of saving the Playhouse has nearly 4000 supporters just on facebook alone, with thousands more our preservation group has been in communication with since 2008.

Tweedle Dum's mocking comment about protecting things from the 1970s is also a reflection of total misinformed crass opinion. The building was built in 1926 with the more significant changes made in 1956, not the 1970s. And 1956 was nearly 60 years ago. Compare that to the South Beach Art Deco District which was not even 40 years younger than that when it gained national historic status. But the majority of reasonable people recognize this.

As I mentioned, our facebook page "Save the Coconut Grove Playhouse" has almost 4000 followers. Why don't you start a facebook page titled "Demolish the Coconut Grove Playhouse and Turn it into a Concert Hall" and let's see how many supporters you get.

December 19, 2013 5:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What caused the playhouse to go into discuss to begin with? I am new to the Grove so I don't know the backstory.

December 20, 2013 1:51 PM  

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