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Friday, May 17, 2019

Mayor Suarez vetos Commission vote on Playhouse

Mayor Suarez addresses crowd across from Playhouse

On Friday morning, Mayor Francis Suarez held a press conference in front of the Coconut Grove Playhouse. The results - the Mayor vetoed the recent vote by the City Commission who agreed 3-2 to approve the appeal by the County regarding their plans to build a new playhouse.

"I have decided to exercise my veto. This decision is based on a variety of factors; the overriding factor is preserving one of our most historical and precious assets in the City of Miami," he said Friday morning.

He read from a 2005 designation report on the theater that said "the Playhouse was to be Miami's most elaborate theater with the largest seating capacity of any theater in Miami."

The City's HEP Board denied a certificate of demolition to the county, which recommend knocking down most of the structure and rebuilding it. That brought the county before the City Commission on an appeal, on May 8. Many favor the plans of local architect 
 Richard Heisenbottle, who has a history of restoring historical buildings without destroying them. The County's plans were almost a whole other project, with a small playhouse thrown in as an afterthought because that was required.

Now it's back to the Commission on May 23, where a vote of 4-1 is needed to undo the veto.

In the past, the Mayor stated, “We have to understand how we got here. And I think it's important. Number one, there are three cultural facilities that I want to save under my leadership as mayor, the Playhouse, the Gusman Center, and the Miami Marine Stadium, and I'm committed to those three things. Secondly, you have to understand the County has had a horrible track record with these kinds of facilities. They were overrun; I think it was a $200 million overrun with the Arsht Center, a $40 million overrun with the Frost Museum, and now we're in this dilemma where they have done nothing for 5 1/2 years with the Playhouse."

Here is the Mayor's full veto letter.

Photos by Harry Gottlieb

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a shame. The demographics of the group standing in the photo in front of the Mayor says it all. White baby boomers that will not even be around to see the parking lot that is going to end up on that site due to their hysterical opposition to the County plans. Shame on them.

May 17, 2019 10:37 AM  
Anonymous John Dolson said...

I always love to respond to those 'anonymous' posters who spout uninformed posts like this one on the 'old white population'. Anyone watching the video of the proceedings with the commission could not help but see the long lines of speakers, some on video, like the Portier family in the Bahamas' who were black and pleading for preservation of one of the first playhouses to be fully integrated. This veto was the right thing to do. If the county plan had been on the original 2004 ballot, I am confident it would never have been approved. People voted for restoration, not Coco Walk II. The county has bungled this from the start. Our Mayor showed some real leadership today, like it or not.

May 17, 2019 10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unbelievable. The playhouse has been derelict since 2006. This will substantially delay the process until the playhouse eventually crumbles on its own.

May 17, 2019 10:52 AM  
Blogger Rafael T said...

I don't know what the correct decision is on the Playhouse, and I don't think we ever will, but I do agree that the Baby Boomers killed the Grove. As they got older, their needs changed (naturally) with them. So, no more loud bars or rowdy restaurants, early nitenite, so they killed the nightlife, then they complain that the Grove is dead. I hope they fix the Playhouse issue soon, however, because if not, it will become either a parking garage or a mall, or both.

May 17, 2019 11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rafael T, YOU ARE 100% RIGHT. Baby Boomers in the Grove sound eerily like Donald Trump supporters chanting: "Make the Grove great again." They are opposed to any change and complain about empty store fronts when you don't see them spending a nickel in town. These are also the same opponents of development in the West Grove that seek to "save the community," but do not even live in the West Grove and would never want the "community" moving into their backyards. Ridiculous! I bet none of these people pony up for season tickets at whatever playhouse gets built, if a new playhouse gets built at all.

May 17, 2019 11:26 AM  
Blogger Jose Fernandez-Calvo said...

So sorry to see Mayor Suárez make such a big mistake ... Caving to the pressure of a vocal group that is all about old memories and not about a realistic plan for the future. Now we will have a ruin falling to pieces for another decade? No new people coming to the Grove? No new parking facility on Main Street?... What a waste of a great opportunity!

May 17, 2019 12:55 PM  
Blogger Lowell Kuvin, Esq. said...

I highly suggest that the City of Miami zoning inspectors go the property and cite it for demolition by neglect. The building needs to be protected and the County is doing nothing because they feel that the worst off the building is, the better their chance of demolition.

May 17, 2019 1:15 PM  
Blogger James Livergood said...

Anonymous your a real piece of work. Your arguments are so transparent. The Playhouse is historical! Historical, do you know what that means? On top of the fact that citizens voted to restore it. The money was earmarked. The legacy of this Trump loving Republican mayor will go down in history as the most destructive in progressive greediest mayor ever.

May 17, 2019 1:40 PM  
Blogger James said...

Rafael T. needs to run for commissioner!

May 17, 2019 2:16 PM  
Anonymous JK said...

Mayor Suarez is my hero, I will vote for you and support you for ever for supporting preservation of our history. THANK YOU.

May 17, 2019 4:17 PM  
Blogger Rick Zelman said...

I’m a “Baby Boomer” and have lived in the Grove since 1974. I patronize Grove restaurants, retail stores, movie theaters, vet services, and was a season subscriber to the Playhouse for many years. The Grove is a historic treasure and essential to preserve if Miami is to be a multi-dimensional, world-class community and not just a shopping mall for tourists. Without a sense of our history we’re just lost in “now” with a reduced perspective on the world (and on ourselves). Thank you, Mayor Suarez.

May 17, 2019 4:55 PM  
Blogger Tony Scornavacca Jr. said...

Thankfully, the Mayor did the right thing. That theater will shine once again! Its a beautiful example of a glorious entertainment mecca. ... I see those that disagree have a very angry tone and they use offensive and insulting language. To them I say, I hope you turn your life around.

May 17, 2019 7:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love how everyone keeps harping on how ‘historic’ the playhouse is/was... Where were all these people when the Orange Bowl was flattened? Things that are truly historic do not need plaques or designations. If the playhouse was such a monument, and magnificent place, it would not be shuttered today.

May 17, 2019 7:57 PM  
Blogger Jose Fernandez-Calvo said...

Tony Scornavacca Jr. : Not all that oppose the veto "have a very angry tone and they use offensive and insulting language. To them I say, I hope you turn your life around." Your post is factually wrong and the patronizing ending is unhelpful to constructive dialog about a complicated subject were well-intentioned and intelligent people might disagree.

It seems to me that the current joy on "saving" the Playhouse is short term happiness and re-connection with faded glories. But what we need is to look to the future, how we build a vibrant, self-sustaining theater.

Right now the most probable outcome seems to be that building will continue to be abandoned for at least another decade ... an eyesore that underlines that the Grove is all about the past, not about the present or the future.

May 17, 2019 8:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Long live Coconut Grove. Let's get to work with historic restoration. Thank you Mayor, you're a good man.

May 17, 2019 8:53 PM  
Blogger Tony Scornavacca Jr. said...

Thank you very much but factually wrong? That was an opinion. But here is a dact: The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That designation means that the site has historic significance. Thousands of people, and the Mayor, support those facts and wish to maintain beauty of this building's charm and character.

May 17, 2019 9:34 PM  
Anonymous James K said...

I'm appreciative of 'the necessity of ruines' which the existing CG Playhouse is in at the present.....However, has anyone considered how many shows would be needed to provide a profit with a 700 seat theatre? Once per week, I doubt it! How will more GP Playhouse shows affect the existing access issues which Coconut Grove has allowed itself to face. Also considering a new parking next door, which will surely be taken by the Architectonica business building next door, allows what?
Our Mayor is considering the CG Playhouse to be the City's premier theatre, how will we get there. Once folks get turned back because of access, the CG Playhouse folds... and then what are we left with? Same old...

May 17, 2019 9:40 PM  
Blogger Tony Scornavacca Jr. said...

fact, not dact.

May 17, 2019 10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Creative open minds will make Coconut Grove Playhouse a venue for upscale productions and upscale musical acts. Can you imagine cutting edge productions and boutique acts by the Pixies, David Byrne, JZ and Beyonce or one of those amazing new R&B young prodigies with cult following performing close to the audience in a historic 700 seat classic setting that will be remembered by fans forever? To some I say your imagination is too cookie cutter limited who believe the Roman Colosseum should be replaced with a Walmart because of efficiency.

May 17, 2019 11:07 PM  
Blogger Jose Fernandez-Calvo said...

Tony Scornavacca Jr. You are factually wrong in your description of those who supported the current plan. A plan that protected much of the building designated historic.

A very loud group showed up to give the mayor a nice "photo-op" but he has condemned the Grove Main Street to another decade of a blighted crumbling sad Playhouse ruin... And I'm willing to bet that it will come back to haunt him in the next election. Especially if, with no viable replacement plan the Playhouse ends up on the state auction block and in hands of a developer who demolishes it.

You may think this is not possible... But it is the more probable outcome at this point:

Remember that being on the National Register does not protect the building, see www.nps.gov:

"Under Federal Law, the listing of a property in the National Register places no restrictions on what a non-federal owner may do with their property up to and including destruction"

The state was going to auction the property (with developers as the most probable buyers). That is when the County and FIU stepped in to save the building. They worked hard for years to put together a well thought out, well financed and sustainable plan.

That plan was killed yesterday by major Suarez to the cheers of a small group of uninformed nostalgics...

So now it goes back to the State auction block where the buyers will be legally entitled to demolish 100% of the playhouse and build a 5 story commercially viable building.

And if that is the (unfortunate) case, the culprits of turning the majors vote to a veto will be complaining loudly (including Ken Russell)...

But Francis Suarez will be remembered as the guy who killed a good plan to rehab the theater which has probably doomed the Playhouse.

May 18, 2019 1:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jose Fernandez-Calvo - statement that "So now it goes back to the State auction block where the buyers will be legally entitled to demolish 100% of the playhouse and build a 5 story commercially viable building" is 100% FALSE. If the County defaults on their lease (which they have) the property can be taken back by the State and then re-leased before it is "put on the auction block."

The County's plan is not viable (restaurants and retail) and knocking down 90% of the structure (the portion that is structurally in better shape) to replace it with Cocowalk II (a theatre surrounded by restaurants and retail - currently demolished because "it didn't work") make little to no sense.

Do you even live in Coconut Grove or the City of Miami?

And lastly, Mr. Scornavacca Jr. was correct when he said: "I see those that disagree have a very angry tone and they use offensive and insulting language." Your comment that "those people "uninformed nostalgics" proved his point.

Jeff Shark

May 18, 2019 11:16 AM  
Blogger Jose Fernandez-Calvo said...

Jeff Shark:

I live in Coconut Grove a few blocks from the playhouse in the West Grove. Where do you live?

If you read the article on the cover of today's Miami Herald you will see that what I described above is correct. And spelled out in much more detail.

Please update your knowledge of these facts because we now need to work together to really save the Playhouse!

Neither of us want it to become offices like the building next door.

We must find a way to work together so we stop the current trajectory before it ends up on the state auction block!

May 18, 2019 12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard a group had raised or pledged $40 million plus to preserve the existing playhouse. It would be awesome If individuals and corporations donate fund for historic preservation as a gift to the people of Miami for perpetuity. We have multi-billion dollar cruise companies in Miami who can do with their pocket change.

May 18, 2019 7:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jose Fernandez-Calvo,

The information in the Miami Herald is, for the most part, false, and comes directly from Michael Spring and Miami-Dade County. Mr. Spring has perpetuated a plethora of false information because his agenda does not include saving a historic piece of history; the Playhouse. Instead, his purpose is to demolish the nearly 100-year-old building and replace it with Cocowalk II; a theatre surrounded by non-performing retail stores and restaurants. Mr. Spring's vision is aligned with developers who would replace Venetian Pool with a hot-tub in order to develop the property to put more money in their pockets, not with the people who pay his salary; the voters in Miami-Dade County.

I strongly suggest that if you are going to present the "facts" in the Miami-Herald as true, you first do your own research. Please, do not become willfully ignorant and spread the lies of Michael Spring and his developer buddies.

Jeff Shark

May 19, 2019 10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's prepare RFQs for historic preservation firms, contractors and suppliers and raise the funds and get started. Open up the historic Theater.

May 19, 2019 11:49 AM  
Blogger Jose Fernandez-Calvo said...

Jeff Shark : You ramble on attacking people personally without providing a single shred of data to support those attacks. You challenged me on not living in the Grove (your innuendo was misguided) yet you never established your credentials as a Grovite. You say the information in the Herald is "for the most part, false" yet you provide no information or links to credible sources of information that might dispute that article. I'm always ready to change my mind but just show me the evidence, not an opinion.

But more importantly : I'm trying to make you see that, while we don't agree on the strategy, we are on the same side trying to save the best version of the Playhouse for the future!

Instead of continuing to promote divisiveness with unfounded allegations I think we should propose solutions and a way forward that unites the Grove behind a Playhouse project that is doable.

You did not like the County's plan, OK, you got your wish. But now comes the hard part :

Who will present a doable/funded plan in writing to the governor so we stop the Playhouse from going to the state auction block?

May 19, 2019 1:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jose Fernandez-Calvo

Grovite? I'm an original Grovite from the 60's. While I don't live in the Grove currently, my family owns property in the Grove and has for the last 50 years. Did you ever see a play at the Playhouse? I did. Ever smoke weed with the Hippies in Peacock park? I did. I use to run rickshaws and work at Grove businesses. I'm Grovite through and through. You're a developer who lives in the Grove and is willfully ignorant. I won't debate with someone who refuses to do his own research.

Jeff Shark

May 19, 2019 2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Grovite" - yet you don't even live here.

This playhouse saga has turned into a political battle between Suarez (aka Mike Eidson's puppet) and Gimenez. Now it's less about the playhouse and more about politics. Sad.

I hope the commissioners will come to their senses and realize that the most historic portion of the building is being saved and restored. I hope they will come to their senses and realize architects are proposing radical, innovative, contemporary designs for the partly destroyed Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the most historic structures on the planet, 1000x+ more historic than this little playhouse which had a david letterman show that one time! Sad.

May 19, 2019 6:19 PM  
Blogger Jose Fernandez-Calvo said...

Jeff Shark,

I get that you have fond memories of the Grove and you want the 60s back, but that is a fantasy, the past is not coming back! It seems to me all you care about is reminiscing and trolling from afar.

If you have such strong opinions of what the Grove residents should do, maybe you should move back here and help us build a better future ... put your money where your mouth is!

I consistently offered a hand of friendship pointing out the areas where we can agree and we can work together for a better future. All you did was troll me.

The future does not happen by chance, we build it together like somebody first built the Playhouse a hundred years ago.

Thanks to the mayors misguided veto that killed the current plan, the Playhouse is now in serious jeopardy, the crux of the matter is still this:


If that plan/person shows up they should have the support of ALL of us. Yours and mine.

May 19, 2019 8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jose Fernandez-Calvo,

1. You don't own property in the Grove, you rent.
2. You have ZERO ideas of how involved I am in saving the Playhouse.
3. You are a developer and not a friend of the Playhouse, so please stop trying to fool everyone that you support saving the Playhouse.
4. Thanks to the Mayor of Miami, the Playhouse now has another chance to be renovated, not demolished.
5. Preserving our history is something that American do, its not a fantasy.

Jeff Shark

May 19, 2019 9:18 PM  
Blogger Jose Fernandez-Calvo said...

Jeff Shark (I assume that is your real name as you continue to log in anonymously).

I thought you were done but you are back here spreading your lies.

1. I DO own my house in the Grove. Not sure where you got the info that I rent but like so much that you say its not based on fact.
2. I think that you are very involved, why you thought otherwise is a mystery to me.
3. The developing I did was rehabbing old houses in the Grove, bringing back their beauty and planting plenty of trees, then selling them or renting them our. One of those houses in the West Grove was so nicely done that I moved in myself. Your innuendo that I demolish them and build white boxes is yet another lie. And it certainly does not mean that I'm not a friend of historic buildings or the Playhouse, just the opposite !
4. Mayor Suarez has put the Playhouse on a path that risks total demolition, that is why I do not like his last move.
5. I'm very involved in preserving history, and your xenophobia has no place in the Grove. It seems your memories of what the hippy Grove stands for are yet one more thing you are wrong about!

I offer you to meet up for a coffee one next time you are visiting Miami so we can reason like adults instead of just trading barbs.

Since we are both trying to get the best possible outcome for the Playhouse, I assume we will be able to find a way to work together to preserve it and have a functioning theater to liven up the Grove.

May 19, 2019 9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't argue with a fella's qualifications when he has "smoked weed with Hippies in Peacock Park." Yes, a funny comment. However, the fact that this somehow gives his opinion more weight than a current resident and landowner is baffling. Maybe he spent too much time with the hippies.

May 20, 2019 8:49 AM  

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