Grove Playhouse On State Cabinet Playbill
By Meisha Perrin
Restoring the Coconut Grove Playhouse to its former glory will rest in the hands of Florida International University if the state approves the university’s business plan when it goes to the board of trustees, composed of the governor and cabinet, in August or September.
Repair work began last month at the long-abandoned Coconut Grove Playhouse by construction company P.N. Construction, hired by state officials to do exterior cosmetic work, despite the building’s noted interior deterioration.
The company was to fix falling scaffolding, broken windows and the rooftop transom that has been allowing water to get inside.
Those minor improvements cost about $5,700, according to Patrick Gillespie, press secretary for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and have already been completed.
But as for the real repair work needed to bring the playhouse back into use, he said, that would be up to the university, if the state approves.
Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection has been handling the property since the state seized it last October for violations of restrictions of the state’s property deed.
Subsequently, the department sent a notice to the City of Miami, the county and state universities and colleges in March, giving all of them 45 days to show interest in the property by clearing it of any encumbrances.
Universities and colleges have first priority to lease the property, Mr. Gillespie said — and if there was no interest from universities and colleges, the city or county could have purchased the site at its appraised value.
If there was still no interest, the state would have put the playhouse up for competitive bid.
FIU did respond, however, and put together a business plan that its board approved last month.
As part of the plan, the university is to work with Miami-Dade County and GableStage, one of the area’s not-for-profit theater companies and the designated operator of the regional theater facility, to provide programming.
Programming would include, according to a draft of the business plan, FIU’s College of Architecture + The Arts, and its Theater Department would use the playhouse for teaching and learning, research, and performance activities like student internships, workshops with practicing theater professionals and university-sponsored performances.
That use of the playhouse would also, the draft business plan says, help the county achieve its goal of re-establishing a major regional theater for South Florida.
The university is also working with Miami-Dade County to come up with an agreement for some renovation money. According to the business plan, the county would use $20 million of capital funds already approved by the county commissioners from the 2004 Building Better Communities general obligation bond package for the capital plan to redevelop the Coconut Grove Playhouse site.
Ownership of the theater would be granted to FIU through a long-term lease, and the university would then execute a management and development agreement with the county, which would then negotiate an operating agreement with GableStage.
The playhouse revival has been a topic of discussion for many passionate residents who have been asking that it be restored since it closed in 2006 — many stating that if it had been owned by a private entity it could not legally have been sitting dormant and crumbling for so many years.
The Mediterranean Revival-style theater, built in 1926, had been acquired by the state in 1980, when it agreed to purchase its $1.5 million mortgage, according to a Miami city report on the site.
Originally, the report stated, the theater could seat 1,500 patrons and the building housed seven storefronts on the ground floor, 10 offices on the second, and apartments on the third.To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e-MIAMI TODAY, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.