The debate over a controversial Miami-Dade County plan for restoring and partly demolishing the historic but long-closed Coconut Grove Playhouse has been prolonged and often heated. But a new poll indicates it’s barely moved the needle of public opinion as a critical vote on the plan approaches.
A survey of likely voters in Miami city commission District 2, which includes the Grove, Brickell and downtown, found that 77 percent support the county plan — and that 74 percent of Grove residents do as well. That’s hardly changed since a previous survey of Grove voters by the same pollster in January 2018 found 78 percent of Groveites favoring the $23 million county plan.
An April 25 hearing at the Miami Commission could determine the playhouse’s fate. In March, the city historic preservation board voted against the plan, dealing it a potentially deadly blow. The county appealed the vote to the city commission, arguing the preservation board’s decision was improper.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez subsequently visited city commissioners to drum up support for the county plan. Gimenez has publicly suggested that the county will pull the plug on its years-long effort to reopen the landmark 1927 theater if his administration’s plan is not approved. The perennially fiscally troubled theater closed abruptly in 2006.
Under a complex agreement with the state of Florida, which owns the playhouse property, the county would restore the theater’s defining, wing-shaped Mediterranean front section. The 1,100-seat auditorium behind it would be torn down and replaced with a 300-seat free-standing theater. That’s the size the county’s theatrical consultant say would be artistically and financially viable.
Pollster Bendixen & Amandi International included questions about the playhouse in a broader survey of District 2 voters for a client, firm principal Fernand Amandi said. He did not disclose the client. The firm also conducted the 2018 survey, which was commissioned by GableStage, the drama company that would run a revamped playhouse under the county plan.
The new poll of 400 likely voters, conducted April 4 to 9, found consistently overwhelming support for the county plan across race and ethnic categories and age. Across the district, 15 percent of voters oppose the plan.