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Front Page » Top Stories » State Will Offer To Sell Coconut Grove Playhouse

State Will Offer To Sell Coconut Grove Playhouse

Written by on February 28, 2002

By Paola Iuspa
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The state plans to offer Coconut Grove Playhouse’s Board of Trustees the option of buying the playhouse and land around it that had been targeted for development.

As landlord, the Florida Department of State for a year has been trying to end its contract with the playhouse, due to expire in 2063. In 2000, the state ended a yearly allocation of $500,000 to help run the venue and also denied $950,000 in refunds to the board for repairs made to the 76-year-old building.

Miami attorney Bill Bloom, also a playhouse trustee, said Monday the state is in the process of setting a sale price. The department is to determine how much it would owe the board in maintenance for the remainder of the contract, he said, and apply that toward the price. In a December letter from the board to the state, theater maintenance needs were estimated at $9 million.

State Rep. Manny Prieguez of Miami, who has been trying to cut a deal for the state, said he would not oppose a decision to sell.

"I don’t have any problem with this as long as the state recuperates the $1.1 million it paid for the land" about 20 years ago, he said Monday.

Mr. Bloom said the trust is eagerly awaiting the state’s offer.

The 54-member board recently designed an agreement to free the state from its lease under conditions that include paying money owed for repairs and limiting the kind of development a new landlord could permit on the adjacent 2.5 acres now used for a parking lot and a bike shop.

The theater’s trustees owned the entire property until 1980, when they could no longer maintain the playhouse and sold it to the state, which leased it back to the group and took over property maintenance.

After a Miami Parking Authority plan to build a garage on the adjacent lot failed in 1999, the state said it would let the playhouse develop the site but never signed an agreement. The unfinished deal caused friction, according to board members. Late last year, the Department of State threatened the playhouse with eviction. Since then, both parties have been exploring ways to end the lease.

The playhouse board, after a contentious meeting last month, voted to allow the state out of its lease, which runs until 2063. But it made the measure contingent on the state dispersing $950,000 it had appropriated for repairs two years ago but never released. It also included a clause that would preclude development of a hotel on the adjacent parking lot, a plan that was approved in January 1997.