After reviewing the county’s plan and consulting with residents, experts, and various stakeholders, I have determined that the current rehabilitation plan for the Coconut Grove Playhouse is insufficient to the task of restoring it. For that reason, I held Sunshine meetings with Chairman Esteban Bovo, the last of which took place Dec. 13, and included the lieutenant governor and representatives of Miami Commissioner Ken Russell. In the meeting, I presented a resolution that calls for two theaters: a small theater for academic uses, presumably under the tutelage of Florida International University, and a larger theater complies fully with the desire of preservationists, as delineated in the Dec. 13 oped by Richard Heisenbottle.
Such a theater is estimated to cost an additional $25 million, mostly from general obligation bonds. Of the $25 million, $10 million was offered by Miami under the prior administration and presumably will go into the pot if a larger theater is built. The other $15 million would be obtained from private-sector philanthropists headed by Mike Eidson, former chairman of the Performing Arts Center Trust. Eidson would have 90 days to secure the funds and at least $1 million in a reserve fund for operational losses.
This is to forestall delays that might be caused by an appeal from the Historic Environmental Preservation Board (HEPB), which is being considered by the Miami Commission on Dec. 14.
The resolution is expected to be considered by the County Commission on Dec. 19. .
By Dec. 24, the residents of Miami and Miami-Dade County may receive a gift of a workable, feasible, historically preserved theater that lifts our spirits and enhances the economic life of Coconut Grove and its residents.
Xavier L. Suarez, commissioner, Miami-Dade County