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Front Page » Top Stories » Parking Authority Delays Action On Grove Playhouse Parking

Parking Authority Delays Action On Grove Playhouse Parking

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Written by on July 20, 2006

By Deserae del Campo
The prospect of conducting a feasibility study of a parking garage next to the 80-year-old Coconut Grove Playhouse was put on hold last week by Miami Parking Authority board members, with one saying she was uncomfortable with negotiations.

Board members unanimously voted to defer a memorandum of understanding between the authority and the playhouse to explore whether "there is sufficient demand in the south Coconut Grove area to support the construction of a new parking facility by the playhouse site," according to parking authority documents.

The authority is to pay for the study and participate in a master plan if the study confirms parking is needed for the area around 3500 Main Highway.

Board member Jami Reyes said she was apprehensive about negotiations with officials of the theater, which has a "laundry list" of problems as it struggles with a $4 million debt.

"I have an issue with this," said Ms. Reyes. "I would like to defer this item until I understand it better." Ms. Reyes said she wasn’t happy about spending money on what has been an issue in the Grove for more than a decade. A plan to get a parking garage built next to the playhouse has been mired in lawsuits since the early 1990s.

The cost of a feasibility study is undetermined, but Art Noriega, executive director of the parking authority, said the money would come from the authority’s trust fund.

Mr. Noriega said there "has to be a starting point to get the ball rolling and get something done on that site.

"I would love to walk away from this, but it would be a disservice to my job and to the Grove," Mr. Noriega said to the board. He said he is "unsure" when the memorandum of understanding will return to the board for consideration.

Ms. Reyes asked Mr. Noriega why playhouse Chairwoman Shelly Spivack didn’t attend the board meeting. "Why isn’t she here talking about this?"

Plans to build a parking garage began with a 1986 contract between the parking authority and the playhouse. In 1996, the Department of State sued for the right to build a garage on the property. The suit was dropped two years later.

Playhouse officials later negotiated a contract with developer Playhouse Associates for a mixed-use project to include 40,000 square feet of retail, a 125-room hotel and a 500-space parking garage, but firm owner Manuel Alonso-Poch sued the playhouse in 2002 after failing to reach an agreement. The lawsuit was resolved a year later.

The property is zoned government-institutional, and the deed includes a reverter clause that the land can be used only for a theater, theatrical productions and theatrical education or be returned to the state, which formerly owned the land.