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Front Page » Top Stories » Coconut Grove Playhouse Costs Fines Delay Act I

Coconut Grove Playhouse Costs Fines Delay Act I

Written by on February 10, 2011

By Ashley Hopkins
A bid to hand historic Coconut Grove Playhouse to another nonprofit stalled Monday as Miami-Dade officials questioned costs and how to resolve Miami building-code fines that the county refuses to pay.

"We need to make sure we get all the information to do things right," said Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, "especially in times of need."

The playhouse, $4 million in debt, closed in 2004. County Manager George Burgess wants to take over as nearly $20 million in bond funds raze the building and construct a new 300-seat theater. Then ownership would go to Coral Gables-based GableStage.

In 2009 Coconut Grove Playhouse LLC chose GableStage to manage and program the theater. If the county commission approves, annual grants once sent to the playhouse would go to GableStage, which Miami-Dade’s Department of Cultural Affairs would shepherd.

Before ownership can shift, however, the playhouse must resolve its debt. Mr. Burgess plans to sell the "bicycle shop" slice of the Main Highway property, now mortgaged for $600,000, to pay off $350,000 the theater owes developer Henry Pino’s Strategic Properties Group. The playhouse board would name an independent manager to handle other debts.

Meanwhile, City of Miami building code fines have grown. Michael Spring, county cultural affairs director, told commissioners that while the city stopped issuing citations, city and county officials are discussing how to handle the outstanding fines.

"We have not paid any citations, nor will we," Mr. Spring said.

Despite that promise, Ms. Sosa asked to defer the issue until county officials report on all costs to create a new theater. She asked that the report detail everything needed to fix safety issues, spell out all costs of construction and identify who would fund any overruns.

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