Plan to reopen historic Coconut Grove Playhouse clears Florida cabinet
08/20/2013 6:24 PM
08/21/2013 5:39 PM
Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet on Tuesday approved a joint plan by Florida International University and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez to salvage and reopen the historic Coconut Grove Playhouse as a working regional theater.
The approval now triggers a tight deadline for FIU, the county and the state to sign a formal lease for the state-owned theater while clearing several outstanding debts and claims on the property. If that doesn’t happen by Jan. 15, the state is required by ironclad rules to put the property up for sale to the highest bidder.
One of the biggest claims is about $500,000 in mounting fines for building code violations from the city of Miami. Commission Chairman Marc Sarnoff told Scott and the cabinet that the city is willing to “do away’’ with the fines and a city lien once the deal is formally inked.
Scott and cabinet members, meeting at Miami-Dade College’s downtown Wolfson Campus, praised the deal, which doesn’t require state funding. The state last year re-took ownership of the 1927 theater from a non-profit group that closed it abruptly in 2006 amid mounting debt and administrative disarray.
Scott called the plan “a one-of-a-kind educational opportunity’’ in a statement issued after the unanimous vote.
Under the plan, the county would rebuild the deteriorated 1927 Mediterranean Revival theater, considered an architectural and cultural landmark, using $20 million in previously approved bond and bed-tax money. GableStage, a leading company now based at the Biltmore Hotel, would program, run and maintain the playhouse as a professional regional theater.
FIU’s theater program, meanwhile, would partner with GableStage to provide its students with training and hands-on experience in acting, directing, set and costume design and technical aspects of theatrical production.
The county is also exploring an alternative idea to have the state simply cede ownership of the theater, perhaps as part of a land exchange, in place of a lease agreement, Florida and Miami-Dade officials said.
A previous version of this article misstated the deadline for a lease to be signed for the plan to revive the Coconut Grove Playhouse and claims on the property to be resolved.
Oops, you haven't selected any newsletters. Please check the box next to one or more of our email newsletters and submit again.
Oops, you didn't provide a valid email address. Please double-check the email field and submit again.
Join the Discussion
Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.