Miami Mayor vetoes commission approval of county’s playhouse plan
Written by John Charles Robbins on May 17, 2019
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has vetoed a May 8 decision of the city commission that sided with Miami-Dade County regarding the fate of the idled Coconut Grove Playhouse.
The commission voted 3 to 2 to grant the county’s appeal of a March 5 decision by the city’s Historic and Environmental Preservation Board (HEPB), which had voted 6 to 4 to deny the county plan for the aging playhouse at 3500 Main Highway.
The commission’s 3 to 2 vote reversed the March 5 decision of the HEPB, and freed the county to proceed with its plan, which includes tearing down the large auditorium.
On Friday afternoon, standing in front of the playhouse, Mayor Suarez announced his decision.
“I’ve decide to exercise my veto over an action of the city commission. This decision is based on a variety of factors but the overriding factor is preserving one of our most historical and precious assets in the City of Miami,” he told a crowd of gathered for the announcement.
“There are many technical reasons why I have vetoed this, but I think the most important is, I was not convinced that the county had used all prudent and feasible opportunities to save the historic playhouse,” the mayor said.
He then reminded the crowd, this is not over. The city commission will have the opportunity to override his veto, he said. The item is expected to be the first agenda item on the May 23 agenda of the commission.
“I invite you to all come and express your solidarity with the decision,” said Mr. Suarez.
The state-owned theater is leased to the county and Florida International University. The lease calls for site restoration and a new modern theater run by GableStage. The county’s plan would restore the front façade building, demolish the larger auditorium and build a new 300-seat theater.
Opponents kept battling to restore the entire structure, including the 1,000-seat auditorium.
An adjacent municipal parking garage with retail liners is also part of the overall plan, to be owned and operated by the Miami Parking Authority.
The county has $23 million tucked away to revive the theater, which has been deteriorating since it shut down in 2006 after financial troubles strapped the group in charge.
The historic venue was built in 1926.