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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Some thoughts on the Coconut Grove Playhouse

If you missed it, here is the story on the Playhouse meeting the other night, were plans were discussed for the renovation of the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

When it comes to the Coconut Grove Playhouse, I am neither here nor there regarding the auditorium part of it. I am happy the front part is being saved as that makes such a great and classical entrance into Center Grove and it's what we've all known all our lives. But the auditorium, should it be saved? Could it be saved? So many great old theaters are being renovated now in the name of history and nostalgia, so is it a possibility to save the interior? I'm not sure what the current group who is doing the renovation will gain by keeping it or demolishing it. They need to stay within the $20 million budget, so I guess the lowest cost to do this is what matters. It's not pretty inside. Nothing like these (here are a bunch of photos of old theaters that were renovated.

At first when I heard of condos being part of the project, I envisioned the structure being built up, you know, having condos at the top or behind the building, but luckily the silhouette will remain the same and the blue sky will show behind the top of the playhouse without anything blocking that vision. The condos one and two bedroom units, will be part of the garage next door. 

The garage I knew was coming. I always envisioned something on that grassy abandoned land behind the playhouse and for some reason, I thought it would be partially underground, I think that may have been part of a charrette at one time, I think in 2008. But I think that same charrette may have included demolition of the old front portion, so it's nice to see that that is not happening. Parking is needed whether the playhouse is redone or not.

The garage does look a bit overwhelming and so so does the proposed office building next door. Perhaps both should be set back a bit from the sidewalk. Actually a lot. I just wonder about that wall of buildings when you first enter the Grove. How will that look and feel?

I'm not sure why restaurants cannot seem to make it at that location, but with the "new" playhouse happening, it would surely bring business to those restaurants, but that would be another four year wait and office buildings were part of the plan before the playhouse plan came out.

As for the 300 seat theater. I think they should hold out for the 700 seat theater, too. There is all this talk all day, every day about the Grove being back and bigger and better than ever and in response we build a small theater. I feel it is a matter of management as to whether the 1000 seats is too much - one 300 seat theater and one 700 seat theater. If managed correctly, the theaters could always have something going on there. If big name productions and performers come in, they can easily fill a 700 seat theater. 300 seats can barely accommodate a large town meeting. Imagine "Wicked" or "Hamilton" at the Playhouse. Is 300 seats enough? If we want big productions, I think we need seating to accommodate the cost. How will 300 seats pay for a large production?

The Center Grove businesses benefit from the extra bodies coming into the village due to the theater productions. The more seats, the more people, and more business for everyone. Looking at it another way, if a production will be seen by 10,000 people, that is 14 performances with a 700 seat theater and 33 performances with a 300 seat theater - less wear and tear and electricity costs and staffing costs, etc. with 700 seats.

It's easier to put on less productions and fill up the 700 or 1000 seats than to double or triple the production schedule to accommodate the same amount of people. Why put on the play three times to reap the same rewards as putting it on once?

For linking to this one story, just click on the time it was posted & just this story will open for sharing - only through social media. Not copying and pasting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The two restaurant properties between the closed Playhouse and Green Streets have all opened and closed pretty fast. The one exception was the former Senior Frogs which had a following before they moved there and lasted a while. It is my understand that those two properties have recently been sold to a developer that plans to demolish them and build more offices. It seems as if Coconut Grove Village is slowly converting into an office neighborhood and away from the Village with affordable restaurants and unique retail shops that we once had. For those we can always drive to Coral Gables or South Miami. Instead of a 300 and 700 seat theater I suggest one that seats 900 to 1200 and just mask of a portion when a more intimate setting is called for. A five story parking garage is certainly not required since more and more folks are using mass transit and Uber these days. And goodness know the Grove doesn’t have the need for any more condos.

December 14, 2016 2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before you think a bigger is better approach to the theater is the way to go, talk to the Arsht- home to Wicked, almost every year. And where would 1000+ theater-goers park (uber solution will not work for everyone, and mass transit isn't going to cut it either. Not a good suggestion at all.

December 14, 2016 7:05 PM  
Blogger Grapevine said...

I don't know. Where do 150,000 people park when they come to the Arts Festival? I am assuming the 1000 people will use the new 566 car garage next door, take Uber, public transit, the trolley, and bicycle over. And be bused in in luxury buses like so many have in come in the past.

December 14, 2016 7:23 PM  
Blogger Lowell Kuvin said...

1000 people do not drive 1000 cars. Most people go to the theatre with a friend or a spouse.

December 14, 2016 7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes, a spouse is also a friend!

December 15, 2016 9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sort of off topic personal pet peeve: I hate when people use the word Uber when they should just say taxi.

December 15, 2016 5:35 PM  
Blogger reid prevatt said...

Art festival is during the day. Uber helps but is not the answer. Parking Garage would be built, and Hamilton or any other exceptional performances ain n't coming to the Grove. Takes economic feasibility to do this and it is not happening right now. Uber, whoo is old and wants to drive with a stranger. Young people nowdays have less sense of culture which is what the Playhouse is about.

December 15, 2016 10:49 PM  
Anonymous Charles Corda said...

One issue that seems to have been omitted from this discussion at this point is whether Coconut Grove is the proper location for a large theater complex. In my personal and professional opinion is not. The only access to this site is from Main Highway- an already heavily congested two lane road..Adding a planned 8 story 536 car garage to serve the 300 seat theater will absolutely bring traffic in the Grove to a standstill. One must ask...why does a 300 seat theater need a 536 car garage when a 150- 200 car garage would suffice to serve the theater? An even larger theater or adding a second theater requiring an even larger parking garage will do much more harm to Coconut Grove than good. The drawings of the proposed project clearly show that the proposed 536 car garage is already grossly out of scale and inappropriate both architecturally and from an urban planning/ traffic flow point of view for this location. It truly is an intrusive monster at this "smaller" size let alone if it were enlarged to accommodate a larger theater complex..This part of the plan needs some serious attention. This massive garage simply does not belong in this location..Although everyone seems to agree that the Playhouse needs rebuilding I dont believe anyone would agree that rebuilding the Playhouse should simultaneously destroy the scale and character of Coconut Grove..

December 17, 2016 8:33 AM  

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