Downtown Miami

Related withdraws proposal to restore, redevelop Olympia Theater property

Miami’s historic Olympia Theater
Miami’s historic Olympia Theater Miami Herald file

The affordable housing arm of Miami developer Related Group has withdrawn its pitch to restore the historic Olympia Theater downtown and redevelop dozens of apartment units located on the site.

Albert Milo, a principal of Related Urban Development Group, wrote a letter to Miami’s head of real estate this week informing the city official that the developer has pulled back its unsolicited proposal for the property. Milo, whose Oct. 24 letter was read into the record during a City Commission meeting Thursday, said he wanted to allow for more time for dialogue with downtown residents, preservationists and theater enthusiasts who have reacted icily to the proposal.

Milo attributes at least some of that friction to what he says were inaccurate blog reports that Related Urban intended to tear down the theater and build a replica. His May 9 letter to the city discussed plans to “demolish and replicate the existing building,” but also discussed a desire to “renovate the theater,” which he says has always been viewed as a restoration effort.

“As you know, the facade of the Olympia Theatre has been deteriorating and falling off for many years. The City has had scaffolding around the property for over a decade. The property is in major need of capital improvements,” Milo wrote, using the alternative spelling of theater. “Our intentions have never been to demolish the theatre.”

Still, while the Olympia is in need of millions in improvements by the city’s estimates, Robert Geitner, executive director of the theater, has made clear that Related’s proposal is not acceptable. He said Thursday that whatever happens to the theater should be driven by the community, not a developer.

Geitner said the commission should “look for a process that’s vision-driven and community-based that allows us to discuss what we want for the Olympia Theater.”

Later Thursday, commissioners voted 4-0 to have the city study the needs of the theater and put out a solicitation based on community input. Commissioner Ken Russell, who made the proposal, said the city ought to “start with the historic side at the beginning of the process rather than at the end.”