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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Renovate rather than replace the Grove Playhouse

 Here are a couple of renditions of the Coconut Grove Playhouse and what they could look like without demolition. These are by architect Richard Heisenbottle's office. He feels that the whole Playhouse can be saved and not just the front portion.

As you can see the proscenium and arches and whole layout would remain the same in Mr. Heisenbottle's plans.

I've spoken with residents about the Playhouse and the major concern seems to be the amount of seats. Many feel that less is more and that too many seats will hinder success. I believe there are a little over 1100 seats now. The favored plan by many brings it down to 300 seats and I might agree if the Playhouse wasn't there already with the 1100 plus seats.  But even with the seat count, I get the impression that most locals would like the Playhouse to remain as-is, and not replaced, but renovated.

Lowell J. Kuvin, attorney for  Barbara Lange and Katrina Morris, two Coconut Grove residents who are appealing the recent HEP Board decision, says, "I think what is most important is to preserve the Playhouse (the original) with as few material alternations as possible which would of course include removing many of the insensitive 'renovations' and correcting the neglect it has suffered over its lifetime."

Mr. Kuvin feels that the HEP Boards meeting on May 2, shows the HEP Board wants to do the correct thing – "amend the historical designation of the Playhouse to expressly include the interior as 'historical.'"

"It was a shame that the County attorney and Michael Spring both decided to speak and to advocate for Miami-Dade County even after they were both fully aware that the April 4, meeting of the HEP Board’s decision to issue a Certificate of Appropriateness was under appeal. While they were not under a 'duty' to inform the appellants, it certainly showed bad edicate to not pick-up the phone or to email them or their attorney (me)," says Mr. Kuvin.

He went on, "The County attorney made several 'legal' arguments which I believe are inaccurate, such as that the City of Miami is foreclosed from amending the historical designation because the County has spent vast amounts of money in  architectural drawing based upon the idea that they have already been granted permission to demolish the Playhouse, albeit, not the front faced and lobby. All the County has done in the way of architectural drawings is to add blocking and stacking to several layouts of the property."  

This is Heisenbottle's vision of the exterior.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said Tom!!!! I am in total agreement with you on this topic. We voted to renovation not demolish. I would write more but you have spoken for the community and for those who truly care about the arts and our community.

May 16, 2017 7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Can you detail the dozen or so projects you speak of? It may help with attendance at the community forum.


May 16, 2017 9:28 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Great article Tom. Thank you for taking the time to hear from people about what they want (since we are the ones who set this in motion with our vote on using the bond money). On my Facebook blog I took a poll asking people if they were for or against the county demolition plan. Over 500 people responded and all but three of them were against the plan. I have long conversations offline with countless people, and I have heard them overwhelmingly support the Heisenbottle plan. And yet, the public is being steamrolled and ignored. The public meetings give the impression there is public input and interaction but there's very little. Arquitectonica spoke for two hours at all three of the last public meetings and by the time they were finished talking (five hours after the meeting started) most of the standing room only audience had left in frustration. The county (Michael Spring) also gave a similarly long speech. And so the citizens still remaining who were finally allowed to speak late in the night were given two minutes with no question and rebuttal allowed between us and the county. That's not interaction. We need people to show up June 22 at the appeal hearing at city hall. There will be no long-winded speeches by Arquitectonica and it will be the public's turn to finally have our say front and center. Let's use this opportunity wisely. We need everyone at this hearing please. Tom thanks so much again for the great work you do on this issue and many others and the passion you have for Coconut Grove.

May 16, 2017 9:56 AM  
Blogger REID PREATT said...

Well Archititonca may soon own a !/4 of the grove they should be the last people involved in this fiasco. Hotel behind the Engle bld. STILL PISSED that the parking Garage was sold to that Terra Group. Too much BS going on. This proposal was out of nowhere and thank god two ladies have it Court. Yes keep the Playhouse and the lot which is huge. You can park there and not get a boot on your car.

May 16, 2017 2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well said, Tom! Miami seems to be a place that does not desire to preserve historic buildings. Some want everything to be shiny and new (especially if they can make money by doing it.) I believe the residents of the Grove want to preserve the historic Coconut Grove Playhouse. All these outsiders and developers want to steal this treasure from us and, if we let them, that would be very sad!

May 16, 2017 4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am completely in agreement of the renovation of the facade of the playhouse, however I also believe that we need to ensure it's future success to avoid it falling into neglect again in 10 years time. A 1000 seat theater is no longer sustainable when competing with all the new big theaters downtown and a 300 seater is better suited to the unique character of our community.

May 19, 2017 6:12 PM  
Blogger Alan Sirkin said...

Everything can be saved.The playhouse is no excption! I pray the powers that be change their minds. Alan Sirkin, PE, GC

May 20, 2017 5:10 PM  
Anonymous Charles Corda said...

I am 100% for Renovating the Existing Playhouse..However the Structural Report indicates that this building is in tragic condition. Reinforcing steel throughout the building is rusting severely..which then spalls the concrete off the beams and can ultimately lead to structural failure of those same beams..It is a potentially dangerous situation..a serious and real issue and unbelievably expensive to fix. From what I gleaned from the Structural Report the problem is extensive..basically throughout the entire building.As much as I would like to see the existing building renovated..I don't think it is really possible.

That said.. In my humble opinion the real problem lies with the oversized grossly inappropriate adjoining Garage. Wrong building in wrong place...

May 22, 2017 4:46 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The public has sat through the same two hour Arquitectonica power point presentation three times and not once did they mention what you are saying about the building being in dangerous condition on the verge of collapse. Would you mind sharing a link to the report you mentioned? If we can waste 2 billion dollars on a baseball stadium no one goes to then the national treasure that is the Coconut Grove Playhouse damn well sure deserves to be restored. They've done it to decrepit theaters all over America that were in worse shape so they can do it here. Besides we VOTED to restore it not demolish it. So there are no excuses!

June 14, 2017 9:50 PM  

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